Hermes Beckons: The Search Is Inward
Chapter 14
© 2006 John Caris

The Audium event was still uppermost in his mind. Potential layers of meaning, hidden in the symbols exhibited by the performance, beckoned for his attention. Ralph walked slowly toward the mirror, looking at the approaching image. The experience last night was radically different from what he was encountering at the moment, sound instead of sight.

They had been celebrating his sixty-third birthday, which was October 7, with dinner and entertainment afterwards. Years ago they had attended an Audium concert and had been enthralled. Recently Ralph had been receiving strong intuitive feelings to do things they had not done for years, a revisiting of their past, and it had been rewarding.

He walked over to the rocking chair and sat down. The memories of last night flowed through his imagination, and he observed them carefully, searching for secret meanings. The audience was immersed in total darkness, except for tiny patches of light emitted by exit signs, and was surrounded by one hundred and seventy speakers that broadcasted music played on an electronic organ and textured with ambient and environmental sounds. Space and sound became unified. He was aware of the physicality of the music: he not only heard it but touched it. The total darkness affected his vision in bizarre ways. Shapes of light, often associated with the music, appeared before his eyes, and particular sounds seemed to be linked to specific light images. Obviously, the retinas were responding to the darkness in an extraordinary manner; perhaps, a synesthetic phenomenon was occurring.

The inner sound-light show stimulated his memories in a vivid format. Images with their associated feelings flashed across his inner eye as if in a series of dream fragments. One intense image focused on his childhood fear of entering the dark basement of their house. He had fantasized that harmful monsters lurked in the shadows. When Ken told him of his terrors, Ralph forced himself to overcome the dread of darkness so that he could protect his younger brother and help him be brave.

Another memory opened to the time that he experimented with the psychological effects of different colored lights during his late twenties and early thirties. He had wanted to learn which color enhanced the meditative state. Later he explored the emotional influences colored lights had on the audience at his magic shows.

As the flood of memories about the Audium experience receded, he inspected several symbols, inherent in the performance, that stimulated his thoughts about the alchemical light show. The light-in-the-darkness idea was dominating his thinking. Last night he experienced its physicality and was not only perceiving light becoming visible but was touching sound. Ordinary, everyday living places blinders on the senses, and when these veils are lifted, we can be aware of the spiritual realm, the inner mansion.

At breakfast Shasta had mentioned that she had been inspired by Audium too and had risen early this morning to work on a new poem. She had also conceived several ideas, especially the use of black art, for her work-in-progress. Happy to assist her quest for knowledge, he had described the application of black art in magical routines, detailing some of the advantages and also several problem areas. The discussion had brought to his awareness the Taoist idea that the way, although appearing empty, was always full. He had suddenly realized the embedded links among cultures. This insight would open more doors in his alchemical studies.

He had awakened this morning with a lucid intuition, resolute and energizing, that his whole life is a learning session and that the purpose of his existence is to comprehend his role on the cosmic stage. The intuition, wrapping him in a serene, peaceful mood, disclosed that his attitude about magic and its purpose must be transformed to fit his enlightened consciousness. Changing his rigid mind-set would be difficult, but not impossible if he began performing each routine so that it expressed a specific idea with its attendant emotional texture. When he left home to journey forth, he always carried props for a spontaneous display of enchantment, so now he would make a list of portable routines that would exhibit ideas about reality. He would ready himself for the alchemical light show and prepare himself to execute real magic. No doubt they would be stopping by Ocean Delights this afternoon for refreshments, so he would consider what items to take and practice the routines. Magic is in the details. ***

With a small, captive audience patiently waiting, the magician took a three foot length of rope from his pocket. Gordon Russell flinched, unconsciously covering his tie with a napkin. “You’re not going to do a cut and restored trick, are you?”

“Don’t worry. I’m going to show you a magical knot.” He held the rope in his left hand and with his right hand took the longer length and tied a knot in the rope.

“This is a spirit knot and will disappear on my command.” The magician waited. “Shall I command it to dissolve?” He looked about at those sitting at the table. Emma Leong smiled and nodded affirmation.

“Go, knot!” Ralph commanded. The knot vanished.

“It’s hard to believe your eyes, isn’t it? Shall I do it again in slow motion?”

They all agreed. The magician tied a knot in the rope. Looking about expectantly, he asked, “Say when.”

“When,” cried Gordon, who could not stifle his surprise at the second disappearance of the knot.

“I don’t want to believe what I’m seeing,” Merle declared. He looked at the others sitting at the table. “Perception is so unstable and so deceptive. The knot’s there and then it’s gone. That’s an idea I’m trying to express in my paintings.”

The magician took his small raven basket from his sports coat pocket and showed it to those gathered around the table. He had named the basket not only for raven’s trickster behavior but also for the fact that items placed in the basket “flew away” from the audience’s view.

“This basket appears empty, but there is something in the basket, and it is invisible. You just can’t see it. My craft expresses the cosmic principle that what is unmanifested can become manifested and then move back into the other realm. This probably sounds like mystical abracadabra, but let me demonstrate.”

A sardonic gleam shone in Gordon’s blue eyes as he watched the conjurer’s maneuvers, waiting to detect the secret. Delighted he would be if he could discern the method.

Covering the basket with both hands, the mage blew on them and then removed the left hand. He turned the basket over, and a quarter dropped onto the table next to Gordon’s writing pad. The magician, picking up the quarter, flashed it at the spectators and then replaced it in the basket. Again covering the receptacle with both hands, he whispered, “Vanish.” Unveiling the basket, he shook it upside down, showing that it was empty.

“Yes, indeed!” Merle beamed. “The creative process, at least for me, operates like that. An image or vision slowly appears from an apparent emptiness. I’ll often wait until the image becomes sharp and distinct. Then I’ll work until my feelings are satisfied. This is a very intuitive, nonverbal experience.”

“It’s similar for the writer,” interjected Shasta. “Creativity is a marvelous and mysterious activity.”

“Poetic images often pop out of nowhere,” Emma agreed. “I’ve had ideas occur while showing a house to perspective buyers.”

“William Wordsworth’s definition of poetry comes mind: ‘Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility.’” Gordon paused, seeking the assessment of the gang. Then he continued, “This statement may seem different from those already offered, yet emotion is the basis for creativity. Emotion sits in the background unseen, waiting to rise into consciousness. It’s there but not recognized.”

“Frustration can supply a background emotion.” Merle glanced at the others. “The search for a specific color or material can become an ingredient in the artistic expression. The feeling attaches itself to the art work, not only the frustration but also the pleasure of finding what I need.”

“That’s true for all making whatever the result. My mental state while I’m cooking affects the food, right dear?” Shasta looked at Ralph.

“Definitely. I can tell what kind of day Shasta has been having by the dinner.” He had learned that all manifestations express in some way their source. Although the magical art was based on the unmanifested and invisible, his presentation was influenced by his mood.

Emma laughed. “When Merle’s involved in a painting, he doesn’t notice what he eats.”

“That habit had developed back in my student days at the Art Institute.”

Letting the gang in on a secret, Emma confided, “Virginia always clues her dad about the food when she notices that his mind is still in the studio.” Virginia, their seventeen year old daughter, was a senior at Lowell High School.

Demonstrating a talent for art early in life, Merle had transferred from Skyline College, a two year community college south of San Francisco, with a scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He and Emma had met in 1979 at an art-poetry happening at the Art Institute where Merle was teaching part-time and had several works on exhibit. Emma had read some of her poetry. They had married four years later and bought a house on Miramar Avenue, two blocks north of Ocean. Merle had built his studio on the north side of the house.

“Yes, Virginia believes it’s her duty to make sure my lifeline to the outer world is always connected,” he remarked in a proud, fatherly tone of voice.

“But speaking of sources,” Merle continued, “my art reveals its source in certain ways. It’s not a total revealing, but aspects of the source are expressed and manifested. I’ll let my critics decide how much.”

“Could we say that the challenge of an artist is to open a path for the source to move into manifestation?” Gordon smoothed his tie. “Montaigne titled his writing ‘essays’ because they were an assay, an analysis or investigation into his thoughts and feelings about particular subjects. During the process of writing he discerned ideas that were hidden in the recesses of his mind.”

Before anyone could respond, Dale Pepper joined the gang and squeezed a chair in between Gordon and Merle. “What’s the topic today?”

“Artistic creativity and inspiration,” Merle answered.

“The visible and invisible,” Ralph rejoined.

“Why, it’s the soul.” Dale glanced at the others. “Sounds are there in our soul. We musicians open our hearts and let the sounds emerge, but it’s not as simple as my words imply. The sounds are filtered through a conventional musical structure, which the audience understands.”

The cockatiel, which had recently become a resident of the shop, began hopping around inside its cage and announced its endorsement with loud, clear whistles. The canary began singing, providing the accompaniment. The gang, amused, glanced over at the singers and watched the cockatiel strut around inside its cage, its yellow head bobbing up and down, while the canary sustained its song.

“The way is empty, yet is always plentiful.” Tearing a small piece off his muffin, Merle stood up and walked over to the cockatiel, flipping the sweet goodie into its cage. The ever-hungry bird hurried over and grabbed it.

“Many Native Americans recognize the spirit world as the source for songs. The composer only ‘catches’ the song and adds personal touches,” Dale commented.

“Do you think that way when you compose?” Shasta asked him.

“At the moment I haven’t formulated my musical philosophy in detail, but my inclination goes in that direction. At some point creativity is inexplicable, regardless of those philosophers of aesthetics.” Dale stared questioningly at Ralph.

Growing up in a musical family in Stillwater, Oklahoma, his father a professor of music at Oklahoma State University there and his mother a pianist, who gave private lessons, Dale had experienced a blending of musical heritages. Native American music surrounded him; he heard it on the radio and at powwows. From several members of the music department, who were interested in the music of the Indian nations residing in the state, he had acquired an appreciation and understanding.

Intuitively responding to Dale’s comments, Ralph stood up and, taking the rope he had used earlier for the vanishing knot routine, dangled it by the edge of the table and slowly swirled it around. He took the other end of the rope and hung it around his neck with the ends dangling down his torso.

“We’ve all heard about the empty spaces between atoms. Viewed on the atomic level, a physical object contains more emptiness than matter. If the atoms of this rope could move through the spaces between the atoms in my neck, why, then, we would witness an example of matter penetration.”

Picking up the ends of the rope, Ralph suddenly jerked the rope through his neck and held the solid rope stretched out in front of himself.

“Bravo!” Emma cheered.

Gordon sat with his mouth partly open and then dabbed his lips with a napkin while Merle and Dale applauded. Shasta, sparkling with radiance, approved of Ralph’s new performance style, one of illustrating ideas rather than making the members of the audience the brunt of insulting jokes.

“Do it again,” Emma requested.

Dale called out, “Encore.”

Ralph wrapped the rope around his neck and without hesitation pulled it through his body. More patrons of Ocean Delights joined the applause, while the canary and cockatiel sang their approval.

Enjoying the warm approval of his audience, Ralph decided this was the moment for his exit and asked Shasta if she were ready to leave. Nodding her agreement, she rose and accompanied him out onto Ocean Avenue. They parted at the Produce Barn, Shasta to shop for dinner and Ralph going to Glen Park Books. He had a subtle intuition, like a silent voice, that he would discover treasures there.

When he turned onto Miramar Avenue, he paused and stared at a woman who was pushing a grocery cart loaded with personal belongings. She was wearing a long purple robe with a pentagram depicted on the back, silver slippers, and a large hat decorated with feathers. Marveling at the weird sight, he continued walking toward the bookstore. ***

Arriving home filled with enthusiasm, he went straight to his studio and laid a brown paper bag on the desk. Removing his sports coat and red beret, he sat down and retrieved four books from the bag. His venture to the bookstore had been successful. A powerful hurricane had commenced in his life; he needed to shore up the fragments of his existence. Three of the four books had the prospect of bestowing the required strength and wisdom. The fourth book, a collection of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry and prose, he had purchased for Shasta. Rilke was one of her favorite poets.

He picked up a tattered, dusty book titled Treatise on Chymical Transformation by a Frater Abenus. He had discovered it in the used book bin outside of the store. When Ralph made his purchase, Francis commented that the book was not one of his because no price was marked on it. People frequently left their used books in the bin, and the bookseller encouraged the recycling activity by not charging for them.

His first reading of Fulcanelli’s The Dwellings of the Philosophers had made such a deep impression that he was carefully studying it in the second reading: so much hidden meaning for him to decode. He had learned to rely on his intuitive antenna, which so far had been trustworthy. Before entering the bookstore, he had stopped at the used book bin, something he did infrequently, and surveyed the titles. When he picked up the Treatise and leafed through it, he heard the book whisper, “Take me. Take me.” Serendipity was favoring him.

The Treatise was a small book, only eighty pages in length and lacking an imprint. The author used a rebus method whereby visual images and words combined to express profound thoughts. Ideas were illuminated by drawings. He stared at his discovery and then began reading it. At the end of the preface he paused. The text concerned a man whose name was Ralph Garland. Strangeness was increasing around him, appearing at unexpected moments. A slight shiver vibrated along his spine when he thought about Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Harry Haller, the main character in the novel, had received a small treatise on the Steppenwolf from an unknown street peddler late one night, and Haller thought of himself as a steppenwolf, half human and half wolf from the steppes of Asia. Now Frater Abenus’ treatise was speaking directly to him.

He continued reading Treatise on Chymical Transformation.

When as a young man Ralph Garland destroys his conventional persona (the Abel personality), he (like Cain) must wander in the Land of Nod, which for him means sorrow and suffering. He must reside there until he shapes a new self, a transformation of the soul: a time of dissolving impurities, a cleansing and preparation for the bridal chamber. Creativity is very conducive and supports and nurtures the Land of Nod. Even comedy, for example Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s comic operas, supports Nod and the habitat of transformation. The Muse lives here and encourages melancholy. To live in the Land of Sorrow and be happy is the quest! Ralph Garland roams throughout the countryside and cities, seeking his authentic home. Plagued by suffering, he must recognize the truth of his existence.

By mid life he has again built a conventional persona, which is broken when he has heart failure and scrutinizes his mortality. He once more finds himself in Nod searching for his real self. This time around, though, he is at a higher level of awareness than he was in his youth. Through his interests in alchemy and other occult studies he has gained insights that lay a foundation for spiritual growth. In his youth he was trying to find himself, his authentic being, through what he wanted to do with his life, that is, career and hobbies. Now he realizes he can make himself whatever he wants to be. The search is inward as it always has been. Even though the everyday world is viewed through his personal projections, the dissatisfaction and its cure are not out there but in him. Now he can select traits and characteristics that will form the self he chooses. His real self is pure potential, a matrix of numerous unstructured possibilities—a microcosm of the great world. Hermes the psychophant, the guide of souls to the netherland and back, the patron saint for travelers and wanderers—Hermes has opened the door, and Ralph Garland has entered bedazzled by the sight of the many roles he can play. Not play in the popular sense of amusement or sports, but play in the sense of existing and becoming; not play as pretense but as being. Being a real magician, a real gardener, a real grower of life, just being real. Let the mask fall away and the authentic self stand forth naked as it was born. He can clothe himself with whatever apparel he desires according to the circumstances and change his garments whenever he chooses. His momentary persona is for the public, yet peering through it is his true self. Part of his costume is molded by his behavior and attitude which form images that can influence the way others perceive him. He can be a quick change artist or a slow, gradual one. Since most people want predictability in their world, sudden and unexpected changes can be upsetting and even frightening. His performance should be gradual, smooth, and graceful. In an emergency, though, he can instantly turn into a totally different person.

Another insight occurs. His suffering and sorrow are self-imposed. As in a dream one part of himself torments the other part. He has written the script, acted in all the roles, and directed the performance. Meeting Shasta transformed his life and attitude. Not all at once, but overtime he has regained a positive self-image. Sometimes, though, he flounders in self-pity. When that happens, Shasta’s charm and warmth pull him out, and he is happy again and cannot understand the reason for continuing his self-punishment by lacerating his soul. In the past he had felt guilty for not fulfilling his parents’ wishes, their goals for his life’s achievement and success. He had rejected their vision and, by doing so, had stated that he disagreed with their values and dreams. Of course, they were hurt, not understanding his reasoning, which he could never explain adequately to them. His thinking was too foreign to their views, and he could never find the words to express himself without offending them. It was better to be quiet, keep his secret to himself, and suffer. He maintained an easy-going mask, but deep within raged a storm of discontent, which he mightily repressed. So his torture continued. Unknowing and unaware of the roots of the suffering, he wandered through his life, a quest that would never be resolved until he viewed himself without distorted lens, until he faced the truth and, even more difficult, accepted it. Now he has arrived at this moment of inner acknowledgment and will be transformed by it. Once he accepts his real nature, turning back is impossible, and the alchemical process proceeds irreversibly.

Another travail is the truth hang-up. He has nailed himself to the truth—forced himself to confront it—ashamed of his lies and deceits, trying to face reality and not his fantasy trip as humans normally do. Now in his later life, after years on the cross of truth, he is getting down, releasing himself from the burden, but can only offer advice to those who are on the same quest. For many people who follow their fantasy, he has only sympathy and unrequited love. He moves in a direction opposite to theirs.

The cause for his misery is the statement he memorized long ago: the truth shall make you free. What is important, of course, is freedom. The truth is only important because it will free one whereas falsehood will not. It took many years before he realized the significance. Most of his life he was hung up on the truth for its own sake. Now he realizes it is freedom that counts. Many people, at least unconsciously, understood before he did. Many people fear the truth because they know that it can lead to freedom, and they abhor being free; a deep terror reigns within. Thus, ignorance is bliss because they can keep their bondage. Loosening the chains causes terror and fright and will make people behave crazily, in a deranged, irrational way.

Another truth can now be revealed: magicians use deception as truth to gain freedom! When can deception equal or at least reflect the truth? Deception shall make you free. For this to work, the seed of truth must be inherent in deception: the light-in-the-darkness. What are a few examples? Deception is used to reveal the truth in the ancient Hermetic science and the stories of Psyche-Cupid and Adam-Eve.

Beware, Ralph Garland: Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, especially all at once, will surely bring death—death to the intellect, our rational system of thought, to the ego and self, to our personal world view. Truth is liberating and dissolves rigid mental structures upon which we have built our reality. Spiritual truth destroys the great rock that is the foundation for our beliefs. We are left with no-thing in a ceaseless flow of becoming-and-going.

Looking back on his life, he realizes that an underlying theme has woven its way through it. In one word—magic. Feelings of calm and excitement, of mystery and wonder, of awe and power, of the hidden and revealed—all these are linked to magic. As a child, he believed that magic was real—Santa Claus, the little people like fairies and elves, creatures hidden in the shadows and those of the night. Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “My Shadow” struck a deep chord when he had first read it. The ending of the poem, stating that the shadow had stayed in bed and was not following, gave him a weird feeling. Only later did he realize that the poet was speaking about death. It had been one of his favorites like Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees.” Poets write poems, “But only God can make a tree.” Here is real magic, the miracle of life itself.

One important thing he has learned and now affects his thinking is the immense diversity of nature. All the great classic stories, fables, and parables express this multiplicity. The seed is a kernel of multiple possibilities. Each seed is the source of a world: Gottfried Leibniz’s universe of plenitude. It is a sunrise, a new beginning in his life, when he realizes this insight. He is no longer caught and tied up in a rigid, one-dimensional persona. Now that he has destroyed or in his anger at orthodoxy slain that person, he does not feel guilty. He feels free. The crime had been staying imprisoned in his self-imposed role, and, of course, unconsciously he had punished and tortured himself. Once he escapes from his self-inflicted chains, he recognizes the comic nature of the world, and it is good.

Suffering continues to exist and will so as long as humans project their inner turmoil onto the world, finding scapegoats for their anger, guilt, and self-torture. “If I’m suffering, others should too” is a common refrain. Wars, greed, meanness, and cruelty are all expressions of the human soul’s disorder. The first act is to create the opportunity and circumstances for the soul to gain balance, harmony, and beauty. Yes, the Diné people say, “Walk in beauty.” If we all do that, move gracefully radiating beauty, we will surely be in the Garden of Eden, the protected land of pleasure and delight. He has also realized that hidden in the land of Nod is the secret key to opening the door of the Garden. He has found that key and has opened the door and is now standing at the entrance of Eden. The key has always been available. At first he had rejected its existence as another fairy tale only for children. Once he has acknowledged its presence, he can unlock the door. In Nod powerful shadows cloak the truth. For the magician black art is an important method, yet for a long time he had stumbled along his wayward path, not seeing what was around him, frightened by invisible movements, and upset by unfamiliar voices coming from the unknown.

Now that the door has opened and he has entered, he realizes that he has always been in the Garden. As the Shadow knows what blinds and yokes human hearts, he perceives his soul and comprehends the cause for his delusion. Like so many others he had accepted this illusion for reality and socially approved thinking for sanity. Knowledge—gnosis—had been preparing him for a rebirth into Eden. It was as if he had been on stage performing and the stage revolved 180 degrees. Before, he had been in darkness, and now he is in light and can see all that is around him. When the mood overtakes him, he can go backstage and wander in the twilight areas. More importantly, he can walk out into the light whenever he chooses. Yes, he can choose which mask to wear depending upon theme, audience, and occasion. A false face, whether with downturned or upturned mouth—he can use it to heal and educate through an entertaining performance. Emmett Kelly the clown with his sorrowful demeanor and Charlie Chaplin the tramp with his poignant gestures had inspired sympathy and hope, and then brought about laughter. Could anyone be as suffering and pitiful as these sacred clowns? Peering into the tragic mirror, he sees reality more clearly.

Although knowing all this intellectually, he is still attracted by the land of Nod; too frequently he ventures back into the depths of sorrow, exploring the nuances and subtleties of his emotions. It is easy enough, though, to leave and resume a calm and serene path. Why is he still attracted? What is the pull? And the charm? Perhaps, he will always be tempted, and he may always taste the bitter fruit. His knowledge is not only intellectual but intuitive, an ability to perceive clearly the structure of reality, as if a veil has been lifted or he has been given x-ray vision. Superficial surfaces no longer are barriers to his understanding. He too can precisely distinguish between a red-tailed hawk and a hacksaw, whichever way the wind is blowing.

Convention points to socially approved ways of feeling and thinking, ways that are manipulated by the spinners of deceit. As a magician he recognizes the tactics and strategies of misdirection, yet he too is often fooled, taken in, and controlled by the political puppeteers. When he is in the midst of clarity, he is unmoved by the constant chanting of the marketplace and the secret voices commanding obedience. He remembers about John Nevil Maskelyne seeing the way the Davenport Brothers were deluding the public with their spirit cabinet in the nineteenth century. The light was angled in such a way that Maskelyne pierced the veil and saw the secret method. Spirits from beyond were not involved as the brothers proclaimed. They were the actual spirit performers, even if apparently tied up. Supposedly, this moment of truth was the impetus for Maskelyne’s career as a magician. He traveled and performed his spirit cabinet routine along with other effects. The difference was that he promoted himself as a conjurer, not a psychic in contact with the spirit realm.

At his still center of quietness he perceives true comings and goings of human affairs. The posters and signs do not point outward, which is the way so many people read them, but direct his attention inward. He can switch his view quickly and easily when he chooses. Soon he will be able to experience both ways simultaneously without conscious effort.

He, like others of his clan, carries an idiot-child. Hermes knows it as the prime subject, the stone in its raw state. Once he accepts his stone, he can transform it into the light-child. It is the soul which is born into the body, a physical capsule that interacts with reality, a spacesuit for earthly existence.

Ralph stopped reading and examined the series of drawings covering the next several pages. The human body in varying postures dominated the illustrations. One set of figures was skeletal; another group exhibited the outer physical form. Most of the anatomical structures had designs that he assumed were energy centers like the concept of chakras. Arrows and dotted lines indicated the direction of spiritual forces flowing through the human body. Certain designs marked physical realms while others signified spiritual regions. The complexity of the interwoven pattern was intriguing. Each drawing was like a maze that he carefully traced a path through.

After an astute study of the illustrations, he continued reading the text, his mind hungry for gnosis.

At the present moment Ralph Garland is again walking on the dark side of existence. Does he feel guilty because of his burden on Shasta? Having made a decision to live in part because of her, he is now wondering if she would have been better off as a widow. He wallows in remorse, whipping his psyche with gloom. Does he fear the truth and its inherent freedom?

Seize the challenge, Ralph Garland, and dare. Remember Champollion and find the key to your Rosetta Stone. Engage your mind power and solve the following puzzle. Within the maze is hidden the key to the chymical transformation.

He paused. A gentle presence touched him like a breath of fresh air, causing him to glance around the studio. If something were there, it was invisible. He turned his attention to the next section titled “Alchemical Recipe for the Twenty-first Century Artist.”

When a magic flute is heard above a roaring tempest, put into a well-wrought cauldron one kierkegaardian paradox, a tyger’s tail, and a mandrake root. Heat until red hot. Add 2 parts nietzschean dionysus and 1 part apollo. Decrease heat and stir until thick. In another container stir together 1 leibnizean monad, 2 russellian irreducibles, and a tortoise shell. Heat until boiling; then add a pinch of wittgensteinian wit. Pour this mixture into the cauldron and distill until dostoyevskian vapors appear. Collect vapors in a byzantium sail and condense.

Mix the residue of devinci, michaelangelo, and rembrandt with a thumb of heavy fumes from a gasoline engine. When the content of the work reaches the vanishing point, mix it with 5 modern sirens and blend under pressure. Equalize all the elements with a pinch of schoenbergian salt until space and time become cereal. Add 1 picasso of water drawn from a bartokinan spring and stir in with stravinskish rhythm. Distill the elements through an indeterminacy chamber. When all the elements have lost their identity, pour this mixture into the cauldron and heat quickly. Add a dash of einstein mercury and watch for the rainbow.

Take the cauldron out of the cave and place it in a purple shadow. Toss in some petals from a rose selvay and some green from a joycean ulysses. Wait until walpurgisnacht and then at midnight release a crow from its cage. Watch the direction it flies. Rotate the cauldron in the same direction until a maelstrom appears. Find the still point and drop some loon laughs through it. Add 3 eggs from an ionesco, 4 characters from a pirandello, and a nogodot. Stir until a pollock appears and then throw in 1 okeeffe of mona lisa. When the mona lisa is partially dissolved, place cauldron in a genet balcony where a which of a wind blows. Toss in one stein of clarkkent, 2 droppings from a batman, and 4 beatles. Stir with a dada spoon.

Insert 2 wired electrodes. Turn on synthesizer and wait for the wedding to be donne. Take the solid crystal out of the cauldron and place under a tuchman pyramid. Fasten a holmesian lens at the pyramid’s apex with a jamesian screw. Turn the screw one dylan. Then put both in front of a tv set. Look through the lens and see the 21st century’s divine comedy in the best modern way. After ten minutes of watching, multiplication will occur. You have found the rolling philosopher’s stone. As you leave, schrodinger’s cat smiles and purrs, and when you reach the stairs, beware of the little man who wasn’t there because he won’t be there today nor tomorrow.

His analytic faculty switched on as he marked each of the potential code words. The alchemical references should be easy to explicate, but the allusions to literature, music, and the visual arts would require research to identify the source. For example, did the word dylan refer to the Welsh poet or the American folk singer or both? Or perhaps to someone else entirely.

Feeling a psychic touching as if he were being observed, Ralph looked up from the book and, peering around the studio, discovered Shasta standing quietly by the door. She smiled. “Join me for happy hour?”

He put down the pen. Getting up, he went over to her. “Of course.” He hugged her, and, then stepping back, the magician retrieved a book from underneath his knee. “Here. I found the Rilke book you’ve been searching for.”

She took the book and gave him a sloppy kiss on the mouth. “My hero. You’ve brought back a treasure for me.”

Hermes Beckons Chapters Suffering Is the Origin of Consciousness He Must Become What He Is Not