Hermes Beckons: Snatching a Piece of Eternity from the Dragon
Chapter 22
© 2006 John Caris

He awoke, startled. Stretching his hearing as far as possible, he listened. Something had aroused him from a quiet nap. A sound, a noise?

After dinner Shasta had left for her monthly dream group, and he had washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. He had gone into his study and began writing in his alchemical notebook. Lucy was sitting up on the desk watching him and Karma, her ears alert, was lying in the rocking chair. Smiling, he realized that he had fallen asleep. These short naps had become frequent during the past few years. Jokingly, he thought of them as his personal version of zazen.

He looked at the ideas and insights about the goddess he had been working on before he had dozed off:

“The great serpent spirit being is the oldest, continuously used religious symbol in the world. For Australian Aborigines this spirit being is the rainbow serpent; and it is associated with power, vibrations, water, blood, and red ochre. The serpent stands on its tail so that the shaman can travel to the sky world or underworld. In ancient Mesoamerica this spirit being was called the feathered serpent. A great python guarded the oracular shrine at Delphi, Greece, until it was defeated by Apollo, who then appropriated the oracle for his own. Apollo, however, still had to share the shrine with its previous patron Dionysus. In Jewish and Christian tradition, as evinced in the Old Testament (Isaiah 6:2), seraphim, the highest order of angels, stand above God’s throne. Few today realize that the Hebrew word for seraphim means fiery serpents! Why we allow ourselves to be bound in ignorance, forsaking our heavenly gift of freedom, is the Great Cosmic Mystery.

“The great cycle of life and death can be described in this way: the soul comes from or is born from the goddess, and its life cycle resembles the lunar cycle; at death the soul returns to the goddess. This cycle is very conducive and supportive of reincarnation.

“Is the tree of knowledge of good and evil a later symbol introduced by a patriarchal religion? In the Genesis story Eve becomes the source or at least the bringer of evil into the world. The serpent, linked to the goddess, deceives Eve into tasting the fruit. Here is the misdirection, the lie, because the serpent goddess would have told Eve to taste the fruit of the tree of life first! The serpent does speak truth, though, when it says that they, Eve and Adam, will not die. This is the goddess’ truth: only the worn-out physical body dies, but the soul and spirit do not. The patriarchal god is angry because they choose the goddess, and he forces them out of the garden before they have eaten of the tree of life. Why does god command them to remain in ignorance of the knowledge of good and evil? Or does he force their choice by telling them not to eat of that tree? Underlying the story is the idea that humans as souls choose to incarnate into this physical world and the only way to leave is when the physical body dies. A second idea is that the metaphor of the soul reuniting with the god is to return to Eden. The animal skin covering is the physical body. The serpent symbolizes birth, death, and rejuvenation. The Genesis story shifts the life-giving attribute of the goddess to one of death, that is, changes the focus; however, the goddess has always signified life and death and then rejuvenation. The serpent’s remark “You won’t die” implies rejuvenation. The patriarchal god is actually the one who forces death upon Adam and Eve by kicking them out of the garden. In fact, the god is the first to mention the possibility of death. Is this god derived from the god consort of the goddess? The god consort went through seasonal cycles of death and rebirth, like Adonis, the corn god, and others, and so this god would know and have experienced death. But did the god of Genesis have any personal experience of death?

“So much evidence leads to the conclusion that the Paleolithic moral order as encompassed in the goddess religion did not die but lives now albeit underground renewing itself. It will assert itself when the times beckon.”

He considered the entries. They posed a critical conceptual analysis of human culture that he would develop further. Then he heard it again: what seemed to be a voice; he listened, but the silence of the house embraced him. There . . . again . . . a voice? Definitely a sound that did not belong—not the sounds the house made, nor the wind blowing outside. He rose from the desk and walked slowly toward the hallway. Yes, he heard sounds that seemed to be someone speaking, but too softly for him to understand. Pausing in the hallway, he listened intently. Now he could recognize it as a human voice, and it was in the basement.

The entrance to the basement was underneath the stairs to the second floor and next to his studio. Switching on the basement light, he opened the door and descended. The basement did not extend throughout the whole house. Most of the area underneath the house was crawl space, and the area that was seven feet high contained the furnace and storage. The solitary sixty watt bulb dimly lit the darkness. He stood still and listened, forcing himself into an alert awareness. A blazing flash of fear erupted in his mind. He tensed and then relaxed. Realizing that his mind was but a mirror was a spiritual elixir, and the emotion quickly vanished.

An old, gravelly voice spoke gently, breaking the silent darkness, not coming from any specific direction, but surrounding him. “Ralphy. Ralphy.”

He recognized the voice immediately. It was his grandpa’s. Without thought he answered, “Bumpa. Is that you?” He had given his grandpa that name because he would bounce Ralph upon his knee, and Ralph had formed the word from bump and pa.

Ralph felt woozy and his heart rate escalated. He sat down on the stairs and breathed slowly, restoring his normal rate. Only then did he notice Lucy and Karma, who were prowling around the basement, peeking into shadowy corners.

“Ralphy. Do you remember your Bumpa?”

Tears seeped from Ralph’s eyes, and he shuddered. “Of course I do. Where are you? I can’t see you.”

As if shades had rolled up and sunlight burst into the dark recesses of his memory, images floated before his eyes. He was sitting on the couch with Bumpa, who was reading to him. These story sessions were an important part of his young life. His grandpa, a retired newspaper reporter, loved to tell stories and read to him—of amazing adventures and strange tales. Bumpa could spin a story from any event, however small, in a person’s life.

He was being very quiet as Bumpa was reading when suddenly Bumpa stopped speaking. He waited patiently and then noticed that the book had fallen out of Bumpa’s grip onto his lap. Concern crept through him, and he touched Bumpa’s hand and spoke his name. Looking up at his grandpa, Ralph saw that Bumpa’s head was resting as if he were sleeping. Ralph grabbed his grandpa’s arm and shook it, but it was limp. A fear arose abruptly in him. He knew deep within that something dreadful had happened.

Jumping from the couch, he ran into the kitchen, calling for this mother. All that he could say was “Bumpa, Bumpa,” and he grabbed her hand, leading her into the living room. Joyce went over to her father and grasped his wrist between her fingers.

After phoning the emergency number, she took little Ralph in her arms and carried him into his bedroom, speaking softly. He was there with the door closed when the sirens stopped outside their house and the voices of the emergency crew were talking with his mother. He stood at the door and listened closely.

When the men had left, Joyce entered the bedroom and picked up her two and a half year old son. She was weeping, and in a gush he began crying also. Hugging him tenderly, she wiped his eyes and nose and laid him on the bed. She sat beside him and told him that Bumpa had gone onto another world.

The memory sequence faded into a new one. The night of his grandpa’s funeral he was lying in bed wide-awake, trying to fathom the events since Bumpa’s death. He felt abandoned and could not understand the reason for Bumpa’s leaving at that moment. Had he done something wrong? Maybe he had without realizing it. He was sitting quietly, not squirming about which upset his grandpa. He was listening to every word and recalled them precisely.

The darkness of the bedroom pushed against him, and he felt frightened. An unknown menace seemed to lurk there in the darkness. He crawled down underneath the blankets, hiding his head. Reaching out, he grasped panda bear and cuddled it. He whispered to panda bear, “Don’t be afraid. We’re safe here.”

As he snuggled with panda, a voice spoke to him. Its gentle and soft tone soothed him. “Ralphy, don’t be afraid.”

He recognized it. “Bumpa, where are you?”

“I’m here beside you.”

Ralph saw Bumpa’s face smiling at him. “Bumpa, I don’t want you to go.” Tears dripped down his cheeks.

“It was time for me to go, Ralphy. I’ll be with your grandma.”

“Is two-mama there?” Ralph had named his grandma two-mama when he was around a year old.

“Yes, she is. We want you to be happy, Ralphy. Don’t be afraid. We’re here watching out for you. We love you, Ralphy.”

The image vanished, yet a soothing, caring energy enfolded him as he fell asleep with panda at his side.

As the sunlight shone into more and more recesses of his memory, he was quiet and watched. Lucy jumped into his lap and nestled as Karma curled up beside him on the step. He was bathed in an exuberant euphoria. A massive burden had slipped from his shoulders. Tears crept from his eyes—tears of joy. He felt his spirit lift and soar.

Footsteps overhead broke through his reverie. Shasta was home. He stood up, only then realizing that the kitties were preceding him up the stairs. What a wonderful dream-like experience to share with his love. He hurried up the stairs.

Shasta was hanging up her coat in the vestibule closet.

“Shasta, love. How was the dream session?”

Looking at him, she noticed his bright countenance. “Fine. Several surreal dreams. And you . . . how was your evening?”

“I’d love to hear about them, and I’ve a story to tell. Let’s go into the living room. I’ll stoke the fire.”

The kitties were ensconced in their nest, waiting for the show. ***

The events of last night certainly had made an indelible impression on her imagination because how else could she account for the mystic dream. Awakening with it vividly in her memory, she had recorded the dream in her journal. Afterwards, she read for awhile but realized that she was not going to be able to sleep any further, so she rose from the bed quietly, not disturbing Ralph, who was snoring peacefully. Putting on her snugly, blue polartec robe and slippers, she went into her study and turned on the small electric space heater and then the computer. Retrieving the electronic journal in which she examined her dreams and wrote down thoughts and feelings that came to mind, she focused on the vision and began composing the flow from her intuition. The room was chilly, but she did not notice so enwrapped in her own thoughts.

In the dream she was sitting at a loom weaving a tapestry. The warp had come from a small dragon reclining in a cage beside the loom. The end of the warp extruded from the dragon’s mouth, waiting to be pulled out and cut off if more were needed. The weft was emerging from her chest in the area of her heart. The room was lit by a lantern resting on a small table beside her. Otherwise the room was bare except for the chair she sat on and a small painting hanging on the wall before her and suggesting a design for the tapestry. The painting showed a dragon breathing fire and fiercely guarding an emerald encrusted box, presumably containing treasure, enwrapped by it scaly tail. The background depicted a cave. Light in the painting came from the box and the dragon’s fire. The surreal vision was frozen in her mind with a three-dimensional quality.

Like a river whose headwaters have been inundated by a torrential rain storm, thoughts flooded her mind. The rapid movement of her fingers on the keyboard tried to keep up with the flow.

The creative process is a quest. The artist snatches a piece of eternity from the dragon’s clutches. With that bit the artist endeavors to create something that emanates from within and signed in a personal way. Sitting within the inner mansion, she weaves an expression of her soul—a birth of all that which will save her. The Immortals looking down will see her mighty struggle to free herself from the grasp of ignorance and darkness. The little light within simulates the larger light without. The brightness her soul emits will push back the veil so that she can see the eternal path.

(Upon awakening, I felt like a hunter returning with food. The image of plucking a piece of infinity was vividly incised in my mind; it was food for my soul.)

Endless space and countless time swirl the artist through the spiraling nebulae of life that is energizing the darkness of the universe. The poet breathes the inspiration of the eternally new, that rebirth of the illimitable cycles, and so the poet births the eternally new from within—an exchange of breath. Her Muse is beside her, and she flows with creativity and energy and a diversity of emotions. Her thoughts are like wind, scattering the dust and debris of past longings and deeds. From the primeval expansion of the manifested world until it fades into the unmanifested dark masses, life spirals through the galaxies. The Hopi corn maiden, as rendered as a bronze sculpture, sits on a shelf in the living room. Kim Seyesnem Obrzut’s eight inch high sculpture is part of finite existence and duration, yet as the art work expresses the spiritual realm, it is timeless, but only to those who are aware of and attuned to the cultural meaning and context. A matter for the soul which is touched by the art work.

What have we done to our paradise, the garden, just to say, “Behold. Look what I have begotten”? What monster have we birthed in the ignorance of our pride? As the Immortals observe us, ineffective little creatures that we are here on a tiny planet circling a fourth rate sun near the edge of a second rate galaxy, we preen our arrogance and believe that the works of our crude and simplistic minds will shield us from disaster and Gaia’s wrath. Self-annihilation is flowering from the tortured lives of those residing in desolation row. The glitter is illusionary, and only minds befuddled by their own righteousness will see it as reality. Now during the age of Kali Yuga, as reckoned in the Hindu calendar, Kali dances upon ignorance, the root of evil, and grinds it into chaff.

She paused as if catching her breath at the end of a race and let her hands rest on her thighs, relaxing the tension. Scrolling to the beginning of the entry, she slowly read what the Muse had inspired and reflected on its meaning. The Muse often spoke with a gush, and she had to be ready to catch whatever she could.

Reaching the conclusion of the entry, she highlighted Kali Yuga. She had not thought about the Hindu deity nor the Hindu cosmic cycles for thirty years or more. According to the Hindu calendar, as she remembered, the present age is that of Kali, who is the destructive and creative form of Sakti, the divine feminine principle and significant other of Siva.

Leaning back in the chair, she looked at the orchids. Stretching her arms above her head, she breathed in deeply and then let the breath out slowly. She rose from the desk and walked over to the window overlooking the backyard. A pink patina was coloring the clouds as the sun rose heralding a new day. Yellow daffodils, deep blue hyacinths, crocuses, and red and yellow rose blossoms were coloring the garden.

Descending the stairs, she walked into the kitchen where the kitties were waiting for their morning snack. After filling their bowl with dry munchies, she heated water for coffee and toasted two pieces of sourdough on which she spread goat cheese. She entered the dining room with her snack, and, sitting down at the table, opened a book of poems by Czeslaw Milosz. ***

Shasta was standing over Ralph, who was reclining on a prop that resembled a log. She cupped her empty hands and then opened them. A white rose lay on her palms. Rafé, who was sitting in the rocking chair observing the action, called out, “Let’s pause here. We should discuss the meaning of this event. It’s central to the queen’s role.”

“I’m not certain about the dramatic emotion I should be portraying at this moment,” Shasta remarked. She was enjoying her part in the alchemical light show and desired to enhance the performance as much as she could. This was her first theatrical role since high school when she had played minor characters in several of the school’s dramas, and now the scene they were rehearsing reminded her of the Sir Green Knight dream, an enigmatic and rather uncanny serendipity.

Ralph sat up and responded, “We should consider the multiple layers of meaning in the queen’s role. And the emotive dimension should express that intent.”

“Perhaps, you should tell us more about the purpose of her part,” Rafé proposed.

“Well, the queen is one half of the self, the feminine component that complements the king or masculine side. During most of the drama, the queen represents the soul of the alchemist, and in the finale she’s the spirit who bonds with the soul. In this scene she portrays the light that awakens the mage from his sleep.”

Shasta laughed. “I’ve got it. It’s like the stories “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White,” but with a reversal of roles.”

“Yes, that’s it.” Ralph agreed.

Rafé giggled. “So, Ralph, you’re the sleeping prince who’s been put into a deadly sleep by the wicked sorcerer. Now what does the queen feel?”

“Underlying the deed is a nurturing love,” Ralph paused and then added, “but the gesture has more to it.”

“The white rose is a gift and should be offered as such,” Rafé proposed.

“With the focus on its healing nature,” Shasta replied.

“And the fact that the queen is the alchemist’s soul mate should not be forgotten,” Ralph observed.”

“Okay. Let’s frame the theme in this way: the white rose is a gift, freely given, that will heal her soul mate who is in a state of unconsciousness,” Rafé declared.

“And when he has arisen and journeyed forth, the rose will give him power later in the drama. It’s a talisman from the queen.” Ralph’s eyes shone as he thought about the fundamental implication of the event.

“Like your Zuni bear.” Shasta hugged her soul mate.

Rafé smiled. Taking a deep breath, she announced, “All right, action, camera. Let’s start with the entrance of the queen.”

As Shasta left the stage, Ralph reclined on the log. She glided gracefully over to Ralph. Untying the white sash around her waist, she draped it tenderly over his navel. She cupped her hands together and blew on them. When she opened her hands, a white rose was lying on her palms.

She spoke softly with a nurturing import to her words, “A gift from my heart. My love shall hold it.” She placed the white rose in the mage’s clasped hands.

“Bravo,” Rafé exclaimed. “Yes, that’s it exactly. Let’s do it again and again until it’s second nature.”

“You’re a tough taskmaster,” Shasta cried with an ironic lilt to her voice.

Rafé chuckled. “You should witness my acting workshop teacher for this semester. She can be tough and exacting, but she’s great.”

They went back to the start of the scene and rehearsed it over and over.

Hermes Beckons Chapters Fishing Is Like Linking with the Spiritual Realm Knowing the Emptiness Is Not Empty