Hermes Beckons: He Must Become What He Is Not
The Lundquist Gallery, located in the South of Market neighborhood, was bustling with activity. An exhibit of Merle Leong’s works was opening, and a reception was being held from 5 to 8 P.M. Proprietor Anna Lundquist, who was the agent for several up-and-coming artists in the San Francisco Bay Area, had been in the very competitive art trade for ten years. She enjoyed the high energy business of acting as curator, manager, and confidante for these creative personalities who frequently required reassurance and advice in their struggle to gain recognition and a semblance of worldly success.
A week before the opening Merle had an inspiration triggered by Ralph’s recent sleight-of-hand performance at Ocean Delights. He asked Ralph to perform during the reception a short magical interlude that reflected the philosophy behind his paintings. Merle’s thoughts about art had many links to the magician’s craft. The deception of the senses was embedded in both endeavors because the mind with its imagination constructed recognizable, realistic images from sense data. The eyes, for example, do not take in whole, complete images but bits and bytes of information, which are stored in the brain. The visual artist plays with the human neurological system, creating patterns and forms of color that elicit and evoke emotional and intellectual responses.
Merle, who often talked about the interaction between the inner and outer states in regard to his art, had discarded the notion of the earlier industrial society that the eye was a camera or copying machine. The mind was the creator. Emotions and feelings clung to images, forms, lines, and colors. The artist, standing at the psychic center, viewed simultaneously inner and outer reality and observed the flow of feelings and thoughts comprising the interaction. The artist painted this experience, recorded it, yet only a moment of the flow could be caught in each work. A fitting paradox born from the alchemical matrix: the creative event fixed the ever-changing, freezing it and thus transforming its essence.
Since the gallery reception was to last three hours, Merle requested Ralph to perform about midway into the party. Most people should have arrived by then, and few would have left yet. The magical happening would be a sufficient change, offering an opportunity to shift mental focus.
Because Rafé had a class that evening and could not attend, Ralph asked Shasta to be his assistant, who was delightfully surprised. She jested that she would obviously need a special costume, perhaps an artist’s smock and a hat, or a fancy magician’s outfit.
Once Emma heard that Shasta would be assisting, she got together with her, and they visited the Goodwill shop on West Portal. After careful deliberations they found the appropriate blouse, skirt, and jacket for the performance. Emma wondered in a joking manner whether Ralph would be shocked by Shasta’s enchanting outfit.
Ralph was amazed and elated when Shasta, dressed in her assistant’s clothes, strolled into the studio for rehearsal. Acting as a fashion model but lacking a designer runway, she paraded through the room to the stage and pirouetted, the hem of her skirt flaring outward. Her whimsical and sensuous movement attracted Ralph, who approached and observed closely. He walked around her, appraising her charming appearance. Laughing, he told her that she would steal the show and then asked if she wanted to be the magician and he the assistant. She demurely declined, remarking that she lacked the experience.
The humor buoyed him as he deliberated over the possible effects he might do. He had decided to transform his conception of magical performances to conform more to the growing reality of the alchemy show. The memories of his previous trickeries on Gordon Russell were embarrassing. Those foolish pranks were not what he wanted to do. He must move away from effects that were only puzzles or practical jokes. The recent performance at Ocean Delights of the disappearing knot was reassuring, filling him with positive energy. Then exhibiting his thoughts about basic cosmic principles with the raven basket was illuminating. His conjuring had opened a fertile discussion, and the rope through the neck routine brought forth a rewarding finale. An immediate change in his view of magic and its purpose was essential. He would use his talents to assist people by showing them the way to heal their souls—the magician as a guide who performs enchanted effects which express advanced consciousness.
At the recent dinner they had hosted for their friends, Ralph had an inspiration while chatting with Margaret Pepper. They were discussing the natural basis for magical effects. When Margaret mentioned that she was always searching for teaching techniques that engaged the students’ interest and enthusiasm for chemistry, he had an aha. He was aware of several Bay Area magicians who essentially taught science through their routines, and so he told her about their success. The idea was to clothe a scientific phenomenon with the conjurer’s garb. If she chose some ideas that she wanted to demonstrate in her chemistry class, he would devise a routine to fit. When he suggested that he could show her a method for turning water into wine or wine into ink, she laughed and agreed to consider his proposal. The prospect of assisting her pleased him immensely.
He had noticed that his behavior and attitude attracted certain types of spiritual energy. The homily “like attracts like” came to mind, and the hermetic principle “as above, so below” was the foundation stone for Hermes’ craft. His positive attitude was gaining support from both inner and outer sources. He would stop acting like a victim.
Art patrons moved about the gallery viewing the paintings as the rhythmic music of an acoustic guitar added background to the conversational hum. By six-thirty folding chairs had been set up for the magical interlude. Anna Lundquist introduced Ralph by remarking to the guests that they were to enjoy another form of creativity, an enchanted happening. Ralph had devised a routine that involved audience participation and expressed Merle’s ideas about his art.
The magician placed a framed blank canvas, eighteen inches long by twelve inches high, on a small easel standing on a draped table. He commented that an artist like Merle looked at the empty canvas and visualized a scene. For Merle it was a mindscape, reflecting his inner reality as it bonded with the outer realm. Then using a brush or some other tool, the artist painted the vision. At this moment the magician picked up a brush from the table and held it in front of the canvas. Releasing the brush, he stepped back. The brush floated in the air. Then it pressed its bristles against the canvas and began moving up, down, and sideways, sketching a design that was transitory in the air and invisible on the canvas. The brush stopped its motion and floated back to the magician, who grasped it and laid it on the table.
“Of course, an artist applies paint or some other medium. This is only a simple demonstration.” Looking about the audience, he continued, “I would like to try an experiment in which we use our mind power. Everyone please focus on the blank canvas. Visualize an image in your mind and then project that image onto the canvas. See it there in the colors you have chosen.”
He paused for a few moments and then inquired whether they were visualizing an image. He beckoned to his assistant, who came over carrying a paint-splattered drop cloth. He took one end while she held the other side. Together they spread the cloth in front of the easel, veiling it.
“Please hold that image in your mind and continue concentrating on the canvas. If your mental powers are strong enough, this cloth will not prevent your image from forming on the canvas.” He waited for a minute.
“Let’s see the results of our experiment.”
After the assistant pulled the cloth away from the front of the easel, a murmur arose from the participants. The canvas was filled with colored forms and shapes. “Please look carefully at this group painting and find your image. If you don’t discover anything resembling your projection, don’t feel bad. Just try harder the next time. Yes, we’re going to do it again with this painting. If you want to use a new image, that’s fine. Okay, now please start visualizing.”
The magician took the corner of the cloth which his assistant extended to him, again covering the easel. He waited as the members projected their images. Then the assistant jerked the cloth away, and a different painting stood against the easel. People were pointing out their mental pictures and commenting on the overall design of the painting. They all seemed to locate their projections. After the applause quieted, the magician announced that the two paintings were part of Merle Leong’s recent works and would now be put on display.
Patrons once again moved about the gallery, discussing the paintings, perhaps with more enlightenment. Shasta—standing beside Ralph and, her arm around his waist, hugging him—whispered, “The routine went over exceptionally well.”
Merle was involved with a group of patrons, but glanced toward the magician and his assistant, giving them the thumbs up sign. Emma came over and told them how much she appreciated the performance. She winked at Shasta, commenting on the glamorous clothes that the assistant was wearing. When they were leaving, Anna stopped them and thanked them for the entertainment.
They were both wide awake after they arrived home. The evening had been exhilarating and gave them much to think about. Shasta felt in a creative mood and went to her study to work on a poem—an inspiration from the evening at the Lundquist Gallery. Ralph went into his studio, brooding over a jumble of hermetic ideas. ***
The sudden, noisy hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot startled the seeker, who was hunched over a book lying on the desk. His heart beat increased, so he breathed deeply several times. Calm now, he identified the call as that of a great horned owl. A silly thought occurred to him: perhaps the owl had a message for him. Glancing up at the levitating clock, he stretched his arms above his head and yawned. Two A.M. and he had been completely engrossed in his research for three hours. He rose from the chair and strode about the studio, loosening his leg, arm, and back muscles.
More relaxed now Ralph sat down at the desk and examined the pages in his alchemical notebook in which he had been recording his thoughts. The inspiration was the story of Psyche and Cupid from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. The ancient author, living in the second century A.D., had been charged with practicing magic and other kindred vices. His allegorical story had for centuries attracted those who sought the secrets veiled by the charm of words, secrets about magic and alchemy, revelations concerning the structure of reality. Ralph examined his thoughts inspired by the night’s study.
The last time I read Apuleius’ story was around forty years ago. This new edition was bought at Glen Park Books. I’m amazed at the insights emerging from this reading. I now have a better comprehension of the story and its allegorical layers. This short summary of the Psyche-Cupid episode, which is the mythic center of The Golden Ass, will be followed by my insights and interpretation.
Psyche becomes beware that a person’s presence can cause jealousy and envy in other people. Her beauty gives her no pleasure, but separates her from others. Her father, unable to find a suitor for her, goes to the oracle for advice. The oracle declares that Psyche must wed the raging serpent: the wedding is viewed as a funeral. After she is left on the mountain top, gentle Zephyrus, the west wind, calms her and carries her to the valley floor. Psyche enters a pleasure dome, a divinely appointed palace. The attendants are invisible, and she hears only their voices. Her husband Cupid visits in the dark of the night, leaving before dawn. She can feel and hear him, but not see him. Cupid has fallen in love with Psyche and allows her to do anything she wants, even if it will bring harm and destruction. The soul (Psyche) is caught up in worldly affairs while the spirit (Cupid) is not, except through Psyche’s activities. She cannot tell her sisters about her husband’s identity nor try to see him. Underline the big disobedience! She is given freedom, but notice how she uses it.
Psyche brings her two sisters to the palace, and the conniving begins. Cupid experiences suffering when Psyche uses her freedom. Psyche’s niceness, her desire to do good, and her compassion—all lead her into misery and harm: she lacks knowledge and wisdom. She will not listen to Cupid because she is headstrong. Her sisters’ jealousy and envy, however, become hatred. They whisper to each other: will her mysterious husband turn Psyche into a goddess, a divinity? Is she already acting like one? The sisters plan vengeance, so they do not let anyone know Psyche is alive. Everyone has believed that she had died when she had disappeared from the mountain top.
Cupid has warned Psyche that if she looks on his face, he will leave. Her child will be divine only if she keeps the secret about her husband, but if she reveals the secret, the child will be mortal. The divinity’s face is mirrored in the child.
On their third visit her sisters tell Psyche that her husband Cupid is a serpent and encourage her to behead him. Psyche, after seeing Cupid by lamplight, cuts her thumb on one of his arrows, and her desire for him is ignited. Hot oil from the lamp then spills on Cupid’s right shoulder. Originally, he had pierced himself with an arrow and so had fallen in love with her, but now he must fly away from his love.
In despair she throws herself into a river, but the waters lay her safely on the bank. Pan is present and gives her advice: put aside grief and woo Cupid. First Psyche gets revenge on her sisters by letting them fling themselves off the cliff without Zephyrus bearing them up. Then she goes in search of Cupid. Venus, however, hears of Cupid’s wound and the gossip about him. When she learns that Psyche is the cause of the harm, Venus is even more angry. She wants to punish Cupid by taking away his wings, flame, and bow and arrows. Ceres and Juno ask her why she is so upset about her son’s love affairs? The irony here is perceptive.
Psyche has decided that when she finds Cupid she will offer to be his slave if he will take her back. Seeing a temple high up on a mountain top, Psyche struggles to climb the steep, rocky slope. Finally reaching the top, she enters the shrine and finds the harvest strewed about. She cleans up the mess and puts everything in its proper place. Ceres, matron of the Eleusian Mysteries, notices her chores but refuses to let her stay. Psyche next finds Juno’s shrine, but the goddess also sends her away. Neither goddess wants to offend Venus and receive her anger.
Venus asks Mercury to proclaim around the countryside that she wants Psyche. Upon hearing the proclamation, Psyche goes to Venus’ palace and gives herself up. Psyche and Cupid reside in the same building but are separated and kept apart by Venus. After beating her, Venus gives Psyche four tasks to perform. The first is to sort a mixture of various grains and beans and then put them into separate piles. Ants help by sorting out the seeds. The second task is to collect some wool from a flock of hostile sheep. A reed growing in the river gives her advice for collecting the wool: wait until the sheep are napping and then shake branches of the trees and pieces of wool will fall to the ground. The third task is to climb a steep mountain and collect a bottle of water from a spring, guarded by dragons, which ultimately flows into the Stygian Marshes and Cocytus. She is assisted by an eagle, who fills the bottle for her.
The fourth task is to go to Hades and get some of Proserpine’s beauty for Venus. Psyche is given a box to carry the beauty in, but she is so distressed she goes to the top of a high tower to jump and end it all. She has been constantly thinking suicide, but assistance has always arrived. The voice of the tower gives her advice about the journey to Hades: where the path is, what to take, and what to do. Greed flourishes among the dead! Do not be delayed by those who ask for help! The tower’s major warning is not to open and peek into the box to see the beauty. After receiving Proserpine’s gift, the trickster in her mind, however, whispers: why not take a tiny, tiny piece of the beauty so that she can be lovely in Cupid’s eyes. Because her self-image has been tarnished by Venus’ punishment, she opens the box and is surprised that it contains the Sleep of the Innermost Darkness, the night of Styx. The Sleep emerges from the box and enters her, causing her to fall unconscious.
His wound having healed, Cupid now ventures forth to find Psyche. When he comes upon her, he puts the Sleep back into the box and rouses her with a prick of his arrow. Awakening, she realizes that her uncontrollable curiosity is her weakness. Cupid now entreats Jove to help. Jove commands that Cupid and Psyche will be properly wed and their marriage will be divinely accepted. Psyche is taken to heaven by Mercury, given ambrosia, and becomes immortal, to be eternally wed to Cupid. Their child is a daughter whom they name Joy.
The multiple layers of meaning are rushing at me, and I must write quickly so as not to lose the train of thought. So many connections to alchemy and the transformative process of the perennial philosophy are concealed in the story.
The ideas forming in my mind spring from the mystical level of meaning. Psyche the soul is mortal; Cupid the spirit is immortal. Immortal means not mortal. The soul when it enters the world is mortal, and when the body dies, it leaves this realm of incarnation. If the soul remains mortal, it will reincarnate and continue the cycle of birth and death until it becomes immortal and goes to the divine realm—paradise or heaven or nirvana. Clearly, the ancients assumed reincarnation and the mortality of the soul.
After Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, the church fathers rejected reincarnation but still maintained the inner truth, that is, the soul is mortal unless it becomes immortal. In Christianity gaining immortality means being saved and going to heaven. Those who are not saved go to hell, which is a realm where unsaved (read “mortal”) souls reside. These souls experience mortality as if they were still in their bodies. Hence hell takes the place of reincarnation without the recycling process, and thus a second chance is not offered. Christianity posits a one time opportunity for all eternity. Reincarnation offers recurring chances for acquiring immortality.
An alchemical interpretation offers more insight. The nectar of the gods gives immortality; this is the quest for the fountain of youth. The marriage of the king and queen equals fusing the soul and spirit. Their offspring—the blending—is an immortal, spiritual soul that has experienced the physical, temporal world in physical form. This mystical marriage explains some of the complexities and apparent paradoxes in the texts. What does the multiplication stage mean here?
The heat is that of love. Psyche’s four tasks are the four alchemical stages. Venus’ wrath is another heat energy that decomposes the elements of the soul and separates the two, soul and spirit, for a time. The two sisters, corrupted substances, spur the soul toward its destruction and thus eventual renewal on a higher level. This is the phoenix image: death and rebirth. Without the sisters’ jealousy and hatred, Psyche would remain in an innocent, unconscious bliss—the mortal soul in an earthly paradise without any desire for achieving immortality. This is basic contentedness. (Is this a reason for God through the serpent tricking Adam and Eve into eating the apple?)
The sisters trigger the sequence leading to the soul’s salvation, but Psyche’s own curiosity leads to the destruction of her mindless innocence. At first she needs a visible image; later she wants to improve herself. Thus the punishment and travail begin but eventually lead to immortality because of Cupid’s love, which awakens Psyche into a higher consciousness. When Psyche the soul first entered Cupid’s enchanted palace, she was only in love with herself; yet once she cuts herself on one of his arrows, her love is directed toward her spirit guardian, Cupid. Thus, she is now in a state which is conducive to a marriage with him. Previously, they were only living together. Because Psyche was not ready for and equal to a bonding with Cupid, he had to remain invisible. Although she bore within her their child, she had to go through a series of challenges before she could reach the spiritual level. At first Cupid came to earth at night for their meeting when she could only hear and feel but not see him. Now she goes to the god realm where they are married, and their child becomes immortal too. Venus’ rantings express the guidelines and the existential qualities. Venus’ wrath turns Cupid onto Psyche! Otherwise, Psyche would have ended up as a mortal beauty without any offspring or opportunity to gain immortality.
Jealousy is a distorted form of love, but notice the many other manifestations of love or heat. Also included is the love underlying the help that she receives for the four tasks. Was Cupid directing the assistance behind the scenes?
Christianity’s rejection of reincarnation created a distorted layer over the ancient texts. Reading the texts through Christian lens engendered difficulties in interpretation and understanding. Later analyses tried to give clues that would unlock the code without disturbing the religious and political powers. Medieval alchemists at least needed to appear Christian because they were already on dangerous ground with their occult studies, and so the Christian guise was their shield against persecution.
The soul contains in its essence the seed of immortality. Without this seed the soul could never become immortal. It is the seed, the child within, that is transformed. The story of Psyche-Cupid is the key to the code hidden in the ancient texts.
Ralph paused in his reading and thought. The Garden of Eden story had always troubled him, so he listed some questions he did not have answers for yet: why did God plant a forbidden tree in the garden where he placed Adam (humans)? Why create a taboo? What truth is hidden in the story? Why is our attention misdirected from the truth? Who is the real deceiver—God or the serpent?
He got up and wandered about the studio before reclining in the platform rocking chair. Gliding slowly back and forth, he let his mind go blank. Gazing upward, he noticed a small, black form levitating midway between the ceiling and the floor. A bit of glowing consciousness emanated from it. Focusing on the gleaming form, he recognized what it was, a spider that was watching him, acknowledging his existence. Observing the spider floating in the air, he called out to it, “What are you doing up there? Are you she who wove the universe into being? Am I a bug to be caught in your web of existence?” Laughing, he was bemused by the thought of the soul and spirit seeking each other: the soul on the ground and the spirit wafting down toward it, but not going all the way. Was she his spirit guide come to protect him? Was the soul’s vessel made of gossamer? The soul must perform its role and reach up and grasp the spirit, which simultaneously seizes the soul. To accomplish the task, he must become what he is not, that is, his perfect nature, his original self. The absurdity of existence was too much—La Commedia, as Dante had called it. ***
Although Shasta was usually up and about before Ralph woke, today she was still in bed reading the Rilke book when he opened his eyes to the morning light. They both had stayed up late, the positive energy at the Lundquist Gallery keeping their minds active. This late October morning was fogged in, and they were in a quiet mood. As the sun rose higher, the fog bank moved back toward the beach, and the Garlands, arising from bed, commenced the day’s activities.
From the quiet is born the Muse who offers the gift of creativity. The poem inspired by last evening’s activities had engaged Shasta for several hours. After a small breakfast, she would water the garden and then retire to the solitude of her study where the creative juices would flow once again. She was on a roll which she would use to advantage. Dinner would be something from the freezer, a leftover of a previous meal. Her mind was focused and a pleasant feeling enveloped her.
Ralph felt serene after his late night hermetic session. He washed the breakfast dishes, not that there were many, but he was in the mood. Afterwards, wearing his Greek fisherman hat, he strolled along Ocean Avenue, inspecting his plants and watering those that required it. His garden was growing, and he was proud of his handiwork. He glanced upwards and, noticing a hawk circling overhead, watched as two ravens were harassing it, trying to throw it off course. The ravens, one after the other, were flying at the hawk’s tail or wings. The hawk tried not to let its attackers bother it even though it was constantly readjusting its flight pattern. Observing the ongoing struggle, he remembered the way smaller birds, such as sparrows and wrens, would attack a raven who came too close to their nests, driving away the threats. Neither the raven nor in this case the hawk fought back. He thought of it as an example of nature’s intelligence, signifying a balance among the large and the small.
He was feeling joie de vivre and, humming his personal song “di-as´-tl-e, sis´-ta-le” to a lively rhythm, he decided to go home and work on the alchemical light show.
Practicing a coin routine in front of the mirror, Ralph notices a movement on his left side. He glances around seeking the source but does not see anything. Was it only a perceptual miscue? A distortion? What? There again. The black velvet curtain seems to be moving, rustling, as if blown by wind or air motion. A figure begins to materialize, a human figure dressed in black, a black turtle neck shirt, pants, socks, and shoes. Ralph’s mouth opens. Startled, he tries to speak. Then—“who are you?”
The figure smiles and extends his right hand, saying, “I’m Harold A. Magian.”
Uncertain, Ralph looks the mysterious stranger in the face, searching for some clue, wondering if he is a source of good or evil. “How did you get in here?”
Harold A. Magian answers, now lowering his unaccepted hand, “Why, through the curtains.”
“No, that can’t be.”
“Why not? It’s only a case of using black art.”
“Or black magic? I must be hallucinating.” He turns around and lets his eyes scan over the studio. The shelves lining the north wall are filled with books; the rocking chair and lamp in a small niche between shelves; desk and computer work station in the center of the room; posters hanging from the inner wall; TV set and camcorder nearby; and at the back a small work bench for refurbishing and repairing equipment. Everything seems ordinary, in place, where things should be.
Then Ralph stares at the stranger, “Are you real or only my shadow, an image of my fantasy?”
“I’m real. Here touch me.” Magian extends his hand again. Reaching out, Ralph grasps the hand with a firm grip, feeling its solid fleshiness, and then releases it. Because his heart rate has increased dramatically, he breathes slowly, concentrating on lowering the rate. He can hear the extra beat, the fibrillation, and feels faint.
“Are you all right? You look pale.”
“I’m okay.” Ralph has lowered the tempo of his heart.
“Ralph, you’re a magician, caught in the wonder and mystery of the universe. I’m a magician too, and I can help you.”
Ralph scrutinizes the stranger, trying to inspect him, to feel any negative energies. “Okay, let’s start over. I accept your presence here in my studio, whatever part of reality you’re from.”
“Fine. I’m here to assist you in any way I can.”
“But first let me ask some questions, a little historical background, some biographical information.”
“Whatever you want to know.”
“Are you an ordinary human, an ET or alien from outer space, a spirit taking on human form, or a figment of my imagination.”
“I’m whatever you want me to be. Take your choice.”
“Come on. Don’t lay that trip on me. You lied when you said you’d answer my questions.”
“I don’t lie. I’m a truth seeker.”
“That’s not the same. One can seek the truth yet still lie or at least distort the truth.”
“Whatever you say.”
“If we left the studio and walked down Ocean Avenue together, would others see you the way I’m seeing you?”
“They would see me the way they see things.”
“Would Shasta see you?”
“Yes, your wife would see me, but in her way. As you should know, we all perceive things in our own way, influenced by our personality, background, and experiences.”
“My image of you is that you’re thinner than I am although similar in height. Your gray eyes are piercing as if you can see into things and penetrate their secrets; your rather large ears and aquiline nose are set off by your dark brown hair; your hands and fingers are long and slender; no doubt they are suited to performing sleights. There is an agility and gracefulness in your movements. And, of course, you’re wearing black clothes. Would others see you the same way?”
“Ah, an astute observation. Yes, they would; however, what you described is only a surface, a part of me. Your original question is profound. When we see people, our perception with its interpretation involves more than just the surface appearance. You’re a magician, you know that. You create an effect that relies on the audience perceiving it in a certain way, the way you want them to see it. A good magician must be a talented psychologist.”
“All right. I won’t try to categorize you yet, not until I know more. So, you want to assist me. Why? What’s in it for you?”
“I would like to help with your healing.”
“What? Why? Are you my alter ego or guardian spirit?”
“Either. Whichever you wish. Or both.”
“That’s right. I forgot. I get to choose, my perception. What if I change my perception frequently?”
“Multiplicity of viewpoint ensues a good learning experience and encourages clarity of awareness.”
“What if I don’t want your help? Will you leave?”
“Of course. No way will you be coerced.”
Ralph ponders the response. Magicians can easily force a spectator to choose something, and Harold Magian has indicated he is a magician, so how is he forcing me? Probably through my curiosity and desire for healing. Shasta has recommended humor as an important ingredient of the healing process. I’ll play along for a chuckle.
“Assist in my healing, hmm. Okay, I’d like to be healed, so just wave your hand, say some magical incantation, and heal me.”
“I’m only a magician, not a miracle worker. My abracadabras are no more powerful than yours. What I can do is give advice, make suggestions, point toward your goals and help you get there.”
“And what do I give you in return? Is this some sort of blood contract?” Ralph scrutinizes him with suspicion.
“Ah, your Christian upbringing continues to get in the way. Notice, my friend, that you’re projecting your image of the Christian devil upon me. Isn’t that evidence for my earlier statement that you decide what I’ll be?”
“If I really get to shape my image of you, then I’ll try. I’ll see you as a colleague in the magical arts.”
Magian reaches into the air and brings forth a pocket watch which he pops open. “I must be going. I have an appointment to keep, but I’ll be back. Call when you want me to appear.” He retrieves a cell phone from his pocket and gives it to Ralph.
“If you wish to talk with me, use it. No need to dial. Just speak into it, and people will believe you’re actually phoning.”
As Harold A. Magian walks into the black velvet curtain, Ralph visualizes a door in a frame which the stranger disappears through. The image triggers an idea in the magician’s mind, an idea for his show.
Shocked by this bizarre happening, Ralph reclines in the rocking chair, rhythmically gliding. What a freaking hallucination. Was he dreaming but in a waking state? Should he tell Shasta? No, he will wait because it will only worry her. He can describe it as a dream—that’s it—see what her interpretation is. Then perhaps tell her what he thinks. If the mysterious stranger returns, what then? His sense of reality has been shaken to the core.
If Harold A. Magian returns, he’ll ask him to stand before the mirror, and if Magian has a reflection, then he has physical reality. Why didn’t he think of that earlier? Next time, he’ll see.
A premonition, surging from the abyss of his soul, touches him. October 31st is only a few days away. Is this a portend of the future? A quiver runs up his spine, as a line from the Tempest comes into his mind: “We are such as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Aha, he thinks, how easily that London poet, one William Shakespeare, arouses the profundity of our minds.
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