Hermes Beckons: Knowing the Emptiness Is Not Empty
Chapter 23
© 2006 John Caris

Immersed in quietness, Ralph was reading Gerald Vizenor’s novel The Heirs of Columbus, which Rafé had suggested. Vizenor’s rollicking writing style, bordering on the absurd, was a tonic for the doldrums of conformity. The author, recording Christopher Columbus’ Mayan heritage, wryly announces that in 1492 Columbus was actually returning to his homeland. Ralph’s imagination was being stimulated by one intriguing idea after another. The revised script for the Alchemical Light Show lay on the desk, and he would get to it later, examining it thoroughly and noting Gordon’s recommended refinements. But now his mind was hungry for something fantastic and paradoxical, something to challenge and provoke his momentary complacency. Because preparations for the show were proceeding without difficulty, he was worried that he had fallen into a contentedness that would stifle his quest for the philosopher’s stone.

He was so preoccupied that he was startled when Harold Magian, after striding through the curtains carrying a small package, called out, “Ralph, you won’t believe what I have to show you today.”

Ralph looked up, dazed by the surprise visit, and then smiled, showing his embarrassment. He took the package and unwrapped it. It was a DVD disc. “What’s this?”

“No previews. I want you to watch without expectations.” Harold pulled the TV in front of Ralph. Turning it on, Harold took the disc and inserted it into the DVD drive. “Now relax and enjoy.”

The room darkened, and Ralph watched with curiosity as the film’s title appeared on the screen:

Ralph Garland’s Strange Adventures
La Commedia del Arte Production,
An Occidental Tale,
transcending ordinary, everyday boundaries

Ralph stands in front of a door which opens as he steps toward it. Inside, he sees Harold, who requests assistance for performing a magic effect. Ralph agrees. Harold points to a rectangular metal table about eighteen inches high. Told to inspect the table, Ralph touches and taps on the thin table top and, then picking up one end, hefts the table off the floor. It is very light weight. Harold mentions that the legs are hollow and made from aluminum alloy as is the top. After Ralph has placed the table back on the floor, Harold walks over to a rectangular metal box and asks Ralph to help move it onto the table. Lifting up one end of the box, Ralph notices its lightness. It resembles in size and shape a coffin. Once the box has been set on the table, Harold lifts the lid and places it on the floor behind the box.

“What do you see, Ralph?”

Ralph peers into the box. “Nothing. The box is empty.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Harold reaches into the box and removes a stuffed cloth doll with wood head, forearms, and shoes.

“Why, that’s a Popeye the Sailorman doll. I used to have one when I was a youngster.”

Harold again reaches into the box and takes out a small sailboat.

“My God!” Ralph remembers sailing such a boat on Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park, the wind blowing its sails during many a carefree afternoon.

“As my assistant you have a close-up view of my illusion just as many of your assistants selected from the audience. Have you ever asked them to observe so carefully that they can discover the secret?”

Ralph laughs.

“Well, I’m offering you a special deal. If you can guess the secret for this illusion, you will win a special prize.”

“Hmm. What’s the prize?”

“That’s a second secret, which will be revealed only if you correctly describe my technique. Other methods will not count. You must identify my method.”

“So I’m outguessing you and not looking for the basic principle?”

“Yes, you’re to discover my secret method, but to do so you will need to understand the general principle, as you say, and apply it correctly to my style.”

“How many guesses do I get?”

“As many as you want. There’s no limit. Now watch closely. Don’t be misdirected. Look into the box. What do you see?”

Ralph sees an empty box. Looking at Harold, he asks, “Can I feel the interior?”

“Yes. If you wish.”

Ralph searches the inside, including the corners, and finds nothing but empty space.

“If you’re satisfied, watch carefully.” Harold reaches into the box with both hands open and pulls them out closed. “Look, Ralph.” He opens his right fist and on his palm are several small farm animals—a cow, chicken, horse, and pig—which Ralph takes.

“They’re like the toys in my youth.”

Harold then opens his left hand, and Ralph sees two toy soldiers. “These are also from your youth.”

Next Harold produces a stack of well-read comic books with tattered covers and torn pages, an airplane, some cars and trucks, a train set, and other toys from the box.

“Everything you’ve removed is from my youth, replicas of my toys.”

“How do you know they’re replicas and not the originals?”

“They must be. I disposed of them years ago.”

“Oh, how? Look how old they are.”

“I throw them out in the garbage.”

“Even this?” Harold pulls from the box a stuffed panda bear.

“What? My God!” Ralph takes the panda from Harold. “The left ear has been chewed just like my panda. Where did you get . . . how did you do this?”

“That’s your challenge. But what about the chewed ear? Can you tell me the story?”

“Our cocker spaniel Gypsy got hold of panda and chewed its ear.” The memory fills his mind. Searching for panda, little Ralph crawled around his bedroom floor. Then he saw a wagging tail sticking out from underneath his bed. Gypsy was up to something. He got on his belly and, peering under the bed, saw her gnawing on panda’s ear. He cried out in agony, and Gypsy turned and looked at him, her tonguing hanging out, so innocent her eyes said. He retrieved panda bear, tears streaming down his cheeks, and hugged it, patting its head. “Poor panda bear, be okay, don’t hurt.” It was a bitter experience when he first realized that his trusted friend Gypsy could do this harm to panda. Later his father had told him to forgive the dog because she really did love panda just as he did, but in her enthusiasm she had gone too far. So he had a learning experience with several levels of meaning.

He remembers the day when he sadly made the decision to dispose of panda and the other toys of his youth. He realized he could no longer hold on to that part of his life but must let it go. He agonized especially long over panda bear, who had been such a dear friend for so much of his young life. Ralph had listened closely to the bear who had frequently offered encouragement and sage advice, and was relieved when panda had agreed to the disposal. He would still cherish his memories, even without the physical presence of these childhood playthings.

Harold brings Ralph out of his reverie and back into the present. “What is this?” He hands Ralph a small cardboard box covered with colorful pictures.

“My first magic routines.” Because his hands are filled with toys, he is unable to take the cardboard box.

Harold reaches into the metal box and pulls out a collapsible table which he unfolds and sets on the floor. “Put the toys here.”

After unloading himself, Ralph takes the box, filled with beginner’s magical apparatus, and opens it. Lost in thought, Ralph reminisces about the joy when he received the gift for his eighth birthday. The previous year his father had taken him to see the great Blackstone perform, and he had been smitten with the charm of magic ever since. Suddenly, he realizes that Harold is looking at him curiously.

Reaching into the coffin-like box, Harold retrieves a green stone bear, which he gives to Ralph.

First shock, then wonderment, and finally joy appear on Ralph’s face. “My Zuni bear charm. So it was residing in the unmanifested realm after all. I’m relieved knowing that.”

Pulling out several sheets of paper folded and stapled together, Harold gives them to Ralph. More memories wash over him. Here is the program for a performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore, or: The Three Sundays of the Poet that the Garland family had attended. His brother Kenneth, three years younger, was at first restless, so Ralph, who was fifteen at the time, promised to teach him any one of his magic routines, Ken’s choice, if he settled down and was quiet for the performance. The boys thought the music was dissonant, not pretty like popular rock and roll. Their parents, Keith and Joyce, enjoyed conventional pop and classical music but were sometimes persuaded to listen to new, innovative pieces, like Menotti’s, who had received such good reviews. They had always tried to expend the cultural offerings for their children.

“This opera had an immense influence on me. It opened my mind to what the creative spirit can do with myth and fables. I thought about it for weeks afterwards, wondering if I could eventually do such inventive things in magic. One result, for certain, was that I started reading the ancient classics of myth and fable. I had thought that my childhood storybooks of fairy tales encompassed the entire field, but now I had discovered an unexplored universe of imaginative stories.”

A sly, mischievous glint in his eyes, Ralph asks, “All these memories the toys bring back. Is this the secret, a misdirection based on my emotional involvement?”

“No, that’s not my method. However, it is a possible form that misdirection could take.”

“Are you using a servante or topit? Are these toys hidden in your clothes? What about the box? Are there hidden areas, false bottoms or sides?”

“No to all of the above. But see here, Ralph, check out the box for yourself.”

Harold pulls out a rod from each of the two front corners. Ralph has thought the box is fastened together with bolts or solder but now realizes that the four side panels are attached by vertical rods. Harold lays the front panel on the floor and then removes the two rods from the back corners. After the back panel is placed on top of the front one, he removes the two side panels. “Notice that there are no hidden spaces.”

Ralph picks up each of the five panels, including the lid, and inspects it closely. Each is a thin, solid sheet of aluminum alloy. He then takes the bottom panel from the table to look it over. It also contains no secret areas. He peeks underneath the table and feels along its surface but cannot detect anything false. Pausing, he thinks over the various possibilities that he knows are methods for such a magical container. He looks at the floor for traps but notices no signs of any.

Harold has reconstructed the box back on the table while Ralph is thinking about the secret to the effect. Replacing all the items back into the box and closing its lid, Harold asks, “Well, any ideas?”

“Not at the moment. How long do I have to work out the solution to your challenge?”

“As long as you wish. There’s no time limit. Whenever you believe you have the answer, ask me if it’s correct.”

“Okay, I’ll give the challenge some deep thought.”

“Now Ralph, I want to show you the second part of this illusion. This time you will have direct experience because I don’t want you to be a typical spectator but a personal, magical assistant like Rafé is. You should be able to learn the secret if you’re part of the effect. Will you?”

“Of course.”

Harold removes the lid, and Ralph sees that the box is empty. All the toys have vanished, or at least they appear to be gone. Ralph reaches in with both hands, feels around the interior, and finds no sign of anything.

“What do you want me to do? Pull out a bouquet of flowers or a rabbit?” Ralph feels uneasy, uncertain what to expect.

Smiling, Harold says, “Please get into the box and I’ll close the lid and we’ll see what happens.”

“You’re going to vanish me?”

“Something like that. Here’s a clue for you. Actually, it’s more of a transportation effect.”

Ahh, the general principle involves containers with their ability to vanish and produce things, Ralph thinks as he steps onto a footstool and climbs into the coffin-shaped box. Once he is inside and comfortable, Harold whispers, “within nothing everything exists,” and then closes the lid.

The dark enclosure presses in on Ralph. His breathing becomes shallow as an intense fear rises up. He feels trapped. The image of his dead body lying in its coffin startles him. “Di-as´-tl-e, sis´-ta-le. Di-as´-tl-e, sis´-ta-le.” The chant permeates his consciousness. As the image of his Eden dream forms, he relaxes and begins to breathe slowly and deeply. The rhythmic flow of life guides his being into a meditative state. The sunlight in the meadow, the soothing sounds of the burbling brook, and the charming bird songs—all beckon forth a little light in midst of the darkness. Now the silence and darkness become healing salves for his anguish. The wind whispers to his heart, and he is calm. Observing the Eden images stirring his imagination, he recognizes the truth: his mind is a mirror and he can play with its reflections and shimmering images.

Sitting down on the flowery carpet beneath a tree, Ralph visualizes a blossom opening, its blue petals unfolding. The flower’s stem arises from the fertile soil. Then the flower gradually changes into a caduceus, the petals becoming the wings.

The caduceus transforms into a ladder attached to a wall, and Ralph climbs up. At the top he peers over to the other side and observes the unmanifested spiritual realm. A strong wind blows and the earth quakes. He notices that a scaffolding is bolted to the top of the wall and a crossbeam has a pair of metal cuffs. By fastening himself to the scaffolding, he can be secure while observing the spiritual realm. As soon as he slips his hands through the cuffs, they tighten around the wrists. He now feels a taut grip around his ankles and, looking down, he sees that they are also clasped by a pair of metal cuffs. Released from a fear of falling, he enjoys the view of the unmanifest for what seems to be an aeon.

His interest beginning to wane, he decides that he will descend to the ground. Unexpectedly, he feels himself uplifted, his back arched and arms spread out, his legs dropping. Looking around, he sees a nightfall and a light on the horizon. A reddish glow permeates this landscape of the nighttime sun. He is above the ground looking out across the panorama. He hears moans and groans, murmurs and muttering all around him. He realizes that many others are also positioned above the earth on their own crosses as he is. A sudden thought occurs to him: he does not have to be up on the cross. He can get down. As in a lucid dream, he recognizes the visionary power of the experience and knows he can change the scenario. His strong desire for freedom releases the metal cuffs. Slowly, gradually, he moves toward the earth, clinging to the wooden cross, sliding down it. His body is in agony; pain shoots through his muscles and ligaments and bones. The tendency is to stop and go back to the position he had on the cross—to stop the pain. He did not feel this kind of suffering then, but he now knows differently. He continues downward until his feet touch the living earth. Slowly his feet soften and regain their sensitivity, as if they had been asleep and now the circulation is spreading through and enlivening them. Energy moves upward through his body; his skin tingles and feels vibrant. Standing upright, he looks around and beholds other people who continue to suffer as they stretch rigidly upon their crosses. Reconnected to the earth within and liberated, he now acts.

Silently he walks through the night with only the red, glowing light as his guide. Abruptly, appearing in front of him is a building whose aura reaches out and attracts him. Entering, he walks down a long corridor until suddenly he stops. Waiting in serenity, he listens. Silence is heavy, and the light is dim. He proceeds toward the door at the end of the hall. Inside the large, circular room he sees skeletons hanging from individual stands. He is reminded of an anatomy class. First are four-legged mammals and then the two-legged ones. He glances around the room and notices the reptiles and birds. An evolutionary progression is displayed. Satisfied as to the meaning of the exhibit, he focuses on the humans. He moves about the room looking carefully at each skeleton. They are all different. Each seems to have something wrong with it: a broken bone, a dysfunction in the bone structure, or a distorted spinal column. Upon viewing a skeleton with its legs broken, he realizes that the person did not let go soon enough, so the legs were cracked. Another has its spinal column bent out of shape. A third has its shoulders twisted and malformed, the arms hanging uselessly. A fourth has a misshapen pelvis which throws the upper body out of balance.

In the center of the human section is a skeleton that appears perfect, as the archetype or paradigm of what the human skeletal form should be. It is balanced; its feet are slightly above the floor as if it were levitating because of its harmonious and perfectly arranged carriage. The pelvis is centered, and the spinal column moves upward with agility and ease. At the top the skull sits, blissfully poised.

Ralph, inspecting the skeleton, witnesses a light emanating from it. The bones begin to glow and brighten the surrounding space. Animated by the resplendence, all the skeletons begin to dance to a strange rhythmic pattern. All, except the perfect one, perform in an ungainly manner; their movements are uncoordinated and awkward. He peers at the one in the center. Its movements are graceful, flowing and harmonious. He becomes enraptured by its dance, losing awareness of all the others.

A chant, at first barely audible, increases in loudness and soon fills the room. The sounds transform into recognizable words, and their meaning becomes manifest. It is the song “Dem Dry Bones.” Of course, the toe bone is connected all the way up to the head bone. A memory unfolds like a flower. Many people believe that the bones contain the person’s spirit, and so the bones of an ancestor must be properly buried.

Noticing a stone bench from which to view the glorious ceremony, he sits on it and immerses himself in the mystic gnosis. A feeling of lightness seizes him, and he is aware of floating in space. The skeleton in the center beckons to him, and, smiling at his acceptance, he joins the circle, gyrating and gamboling to his own rhythm. ***

“Disembarkation for the planet Uruk occurs in ten minutes. Everyone be at the star-portal in nine minutes.”

The chirping voice arouses Ralph from his sleep. He opens his eyes, looks around, and finds himself lying on a bed in a small room. Wondering where he is and what is happening, he gazes at a flashing monitor on the nearby table. A voice from the monitor, identifying itself as his personal secretary, announces his schedule for the day. After he goes through the checkout gate, he will be met by Jetsun, whose picture is displayed on the screen and who will escort Ralph to the meeting with Lobsang, whose picture is shown next on the screen. Lobsang, the Dilmun ambassador on Uruk, will give Ralph instructions for his new assignment. Although he is concerned by this mysterious situation, he decides to play along for now. After all, this could be an exciting adventure.

At the gate Jetsun, a stout man with a placid demeanor hiding a keen alertness, steps from the waiting crowd and introduces himself to Ralph. They quickly leave the terminal and enter the backseat of a dark blue sedan parked at the curb. After a hurried drive through dense traffic, they arrive at the Dilmun Embassy, where Ralph is ushered into the ambassador’s office. Lobsang—tall and lanky, an intensity of purpose radiating from his bearing—is sitting at his desk. He arises with a graceful movement and proffers a friendly greeting.

“Please sit here.” Lobsang indicates the couch. After inquiring about refreshments, which Ralph politely declines, Lobsang picks up a DVD disc from the desk and sits in an armchair facing Ralph. “All the background information is on this disc.” He places it on the table in front of the couch.

Uncertain what the assignment entails, Ralph inquires, “I’m not exactly clear about my role and the purpose.”

“I realize that you accepted without full knowledge, and I apologize for the haste and obscurity. You were highly recommended, and because we’re facing a fast approaching deadline, I decided to offer you the task without the usual negotiation. Again, we’re extremely delighted that you chose to assist us.”

“How can I be of service, then?”

“Here’s the situation. Within the coming year, and the exact date is uncertain, the universe will reach a point where the amount of energy used is more than that produced. We are now close to the zero-sum where the energy used is equal to that made. When we fall below the creation level, then life will die and the universe will quickly disintegrate.”

“What, the world dissolving into nothingness? I can’t believe it.” Ralph’s voice cracked with dread filled by uncertainty.

“Yes, it sounds impossible, but it will happen unless we act quickly to prevent the unthinkable from occurring. Let me tell you a story that will probably seem a fable, if not utterly fantastic.

“Back at the beginning of time or, more exactly, at the foundation of the universe, an energy-producing system was created. It is a recycling process based, very simply, upon an exchange of positive and negative particles. These particles are not opposites as the words positive and negative would imply. Actually, they are complementary and uniquely consummate a unity. The process for living-energy is incarnated in a humanoid form, albeit androgynous, and so we humans can easily understand the superficial level of the operation because of the sexual adornments.”

Lobsang pushes a button on the chair arm, and a holographic image of a human being hovers in the air in front of them. The right side of the human is male while the left side female. “We call the being Adam-Eve. Certainly, it’s an ethnocentric imposition on the diverse cultures in the universe, but the name’s been accepted by most. Although they inhabit a singular body, they have their own individual consciousness.”

Fascinated, Ralph stares at the three-dimensional portraiture floating in space. Alchemical thoughts flood his imagination and ignite his enthusiasm. “How does the process work?”

“Once every month Adam-Eve generate energy through a cycle in which they separate and then reunite. Watch.” Pressing a button, Lobsang animates the three-dimensional figure.

The reflections of the male and female slowly migrate toward each other and, moving by, reverse their positions. The transposition causes a distorted surface image with Eve now on the right side and Adam on the left. Then gradually they separate into two bodies, man and woman. Like an amoeba their unity has become two. Embracing each other, front to front, the fusing begins until they become one body again, Eve on the left side and Adam on the right.

“Once every month the process generates a specific quantity of living-energy, which is stored until it is used to ignite souls for all creatures at birth. Each soul receives a spark of living energy, which is its animator.”

Awed by the sublime vision, Ralph can only think of the fusing as a mystical conjunction. Hermes is smiling upon him. “I’m amazed by the sight of Adam-Eve. Now what is the cause for anxiety? You stated that the world will come to an end.”

“Yes, due to the greed and arrogance of a group of people led by the most powerful man in the universe, Assur, who is CEO of Universal Pentagon Power Corporation.” A holographic portrait of Assur levitates in the air.

“Many years or, more precisely, aeons ago Universal Pentagon Power Corporation was established by Assur’s ancestor, Marduk, whom everyone calls the Founder. In that ancient time the Founder traveled to Eden, Adam-Eve’s home planet, where by deceit and subterfuge he kidnapped and brought them here to Uruk. Before going to Eden, Marduk had cloned a dense body for their confinement. Originally, they had a more ethereal substance, commensurate with their spiritual nature. During the energy-generating cycle they must leave the cloned body because only in their spiritual form will the process create living-energy. After the action is completed, they are incarnated in a newly cloned dense body before they leave the laboratory to return to their lodging. Here is the crux of the crisis. The process of living in a dense substance, leaving it, and then reentering a new one always consumes spiritual energy. The energy generating cycles are slowly depleting their own original power source. Because they have been removed from their home on Eden, they cannot replenish their energy. My friend, they are dying.”

The gnosis shakes Ralph to the core of his being. “Once Adam-Eve die, then all life becomes extinct. That’s terrifying and unbelievable—beyond normal understanding.”

“Unbelievable yet true. Not only life but all existence is on the brink of the void. The spiritual energy supports and maintains the whole universe. Without it nothing can exist. The increase in conflict and violence plaguing the world is a result of the diminishing spiritual power. As we reach zero-sum, we can expect more and more erosion and decay of all creatures and their culture. The worst, most evil in our nature will surface and lay a contagion across the universe that will make our notion of hell seem a paradise.”

“Doesn’t Assur realize what’s happening?”

“He doesn’t want to risk losing his monopoly over generating living-energy, which is the source of his vast wealth and makes him the richest and dominant man in the universe. All must pay a royalty fee for a spark. By controlling production he has manufactured an army of servants. A spark of energy is put into a cloned fertile cell, and the cell divides, growing into an embryo in vitro. Although individuals of many different species are grown, depending on the market demand, he concentrates on producing humans; some he keeps as workers and others he sells. Humans, too, are wealth, Assur believes.

“For several years he’s known about the crisis, but he’s trying to find a solution that will maintain his possession of them. Top scientific specialists in the field have been hired, yet none has discovered the answer. To compound the calamity, Adam-Eve can no longer return to Eden because they have resided in their dense bodies for too long.”

“I don’t understand the reason for the banishment.”

“The process was originally designed to operate on the spiritual level. When Marduk captured them, he imposed limitations on the fundamental pattern because he wanted total control over the production of living-energy.”

“Of course. They have to leave their bodies to perform the cycle.” Ralph clearly perceives the three-dimensional process in his mind. “I presume you have a solution which involves my help.”

“Yes, we do. Even though Adam-Eve cannot return to Eden, they can inhabit another planet where their energy source will be replenished and they can stop residing in a dense body. The planet is Peniel, which is located in the Dilmun Federation’s territory. Only here can the source of life be restored and preserved. We are asking you to assist Adam-Eve to escape to Peniel.”

“Why me? How can I do that?”

“You’re a renowned magician and can gain access to their daily activities. Here’s the situation. Assur enjoys magic as a hobby, so he wants a court magician around to entertain and teach him new effects. Because of your celebrated magical skills, Ralph, we think you can do the job, but this is a very dangerous assignment. The previous court magician was slowly tortured to death when Assur tired of him, so it could cost your life, especially if he discovers your secret agenda. If, for whatever reason, the CEO of Universal Pentagon Power Corporation becomes dissatisfied with your services, death will result only after being cruelly tortured.”

Ralph feels excitement building within, a fire that stimulates vitality and a laudable purpose. He has faced his death before, so that does not worry him, but torture is another concern. Abruptly, the vision of Adam-Eve’s energy cycle illumines his psyche. An aha bursts from his lips because he can now experience the light-in-the-darkness. Knowing that the emptiness is not empty, he has reached an advanced stage in his journey. Pushing away the possibility of failure, he focuses on fulfilling the quest. “I accept the assignment. When do I start?”

“You’ve begun at this moment. Jetsun will take you to your temporary lodging where you can study the data disc and prepare for your new career. In two or three days Jetsun will pick you up and drive you to Assur’s corporate campus, and you’ll begin your adventure as court magician. Good luck, Ralph. We Dilmuns and our allies are profoundly grateful.”

Ralph picks up the data disc, shakes hands with Lobsang, and leaves with Jetsun. Anticipation glows within.

For the next two days Ralph prepares for the latest strange adventure in his extraordinary life. From his research he has learned that Assur has a dual personality: he can be very friendly and caring; thus, he is known to his employees as the great, beneficent Leader, as long as everything is following his plans. He is, however, easily irritated by anyone who makes mistakes or commits goofs. He has an intense temper—the off-with-your-head type—that can erupt without warning. He takes out his wrath on those around regardless of any wrong-doing on their part. The knowledgeable stay out of the way when he unleashes his rage. Conceited, arrogant, self-centered, and mean-spirited: he takes what he wants and only looks at the profit line for the basis of his actions. The only person he honors and praises is the Founder of Universal Pentagon Power Corporation, but even so he has a secret desire to outshine Marduk.

Ralph’s application has been approved, and after two days of preparation he enters Assur’s employment as his personal magician and entertainer. Ralph is one of four who are members of the CEO’s inner circle. The other three are Sim, the bodyguard; Sala, the executive assistant; and Bim, the chauffeur. As members of the Leader’s entourage they must always be available. Each has a personal two room suite, which is comfortable in its accommodations, but not lavish.

A special identity has been created for Ralph. The Dilmuns have devised a technique for making cover personas. Every year they birth into the universe’s database new individuals who are actually virtual persons with no objective correlative. These persons grow and develop specific traits, have careers, families, and finally die, but they are all only virtual. When a Dilmun needs a persona, then a virtual person is chosen for the cover. Early in the establishment of the database a potential problem was posed: what if these personas were investigated in real life? How would their lack of physical existence be hidden? Studies had been undertaken, and the conclusions had indicated that the chance of such an occurrence was minimal. Virtual persons are mixed in with billions of real people. If, by chance, one virtual person is selected and not found, then the result would be discarded as a permissible error. A hidden monitoring system was set up to watch for anyone checking on virtual persons; if someone was, those cover personas would not be used.

For the first few weeks Ralph enjoys his employment, which gives him an eerie thrill. As personal magician he is always ready to please Assur with sleights of cards and coins. Recently, though, Assur has commanded Ralph to entertain him with stage illusions. By spending many hours teaching him routines and encouraging him to increase his skills, Ralph has gained greater insight into the Commander’s personality. During the round of daily activities, Ralph begins to formulate a plan for releasing Adam-Eve. With the assistance of several Dilmuns who are employed as menial staff at the corporate campus, he gathers information about the administrative affairs.

During the fourth month of his employment Ralph is with Assur at the power laboratory and observes Adam-Eve’s energy cycle. They watch from a platform above the immense domed cylinder, which is constructed of a transparent synthetic material. The process, although slower and in more detail, approximates what he envisioned at Lobsang’s office. As he scrutinizes the transformation, an uncanny dread spreads up his spinal column. Adam-Eve’s aura is dim, and they are having difficulty accomplishing the operation. Obviously, their power source is nearing depletion. Assur also recognizes their worsening condition and calls the laboratory’s administrator, who admits that they may not have enough power for next month. As the CEO’s temper explodes, his entourage quickly disperses and leaves the administrator to take the brunt of it.

Back in his room Ralph relives the unnerving experience at the laboratory earlier that day. He must act soon, or the universe will perish. He visualizes a map of Universal Pentagon Power Corporation’s two hundred acre campus. The Leader’s mansion is situated in the middle and surrounded by administrative and maintenance buildings. The energy-generating laboratory is underground, located on the northern side of the campus. Over it, sits a small, plainly designed building, suggesting a utility shed. Hidden armor shields the building. The laboratory has only two entrances: a small portal into the utility shed and a short, underground tunnel connecting the laboratory with Adam-Eve’s lodging, which is a three room bungalow.

He considers Assur’s egomaniacal personality and attachment to the Founder. A deception built upon these traits might be successful. Accessing the database of the Commander’s life, Ralph studies in particular his philosophy and religious beliefs, which have been handed down from the Founder through all the sons. A rigid, literal thought pattern is manifested. Here dwells arrogance and madness, delusion and self-deception. The CEO’s beliefs are the basis for a ready-made set of ideas that Ralph can use to create the appropriate illusions that will lure him into a false sense of security. He will not recognize the deception until Adam-Eve have escaped. The illusions will center on the Leader’s perception enhanced by his ego-blindness because he cannot accept the importance of woman, the feminine part of God that is equal to the masculine and creates the balance that supports the universe. Adam-Eve’s energy-generating cycle demonstrates the truth of this equilibrium. From his reading in the hermetic tradition Ralph recalls ideas that involve the celestial woman standing beside the celestial man. Neither is complete, for each is only half of the cosmic crown. To believe that only one constitutes the whole crown is madness because in actuality God is complete. He remembers that the same idea is asserted at Genesis 1:27 in the Christian Old Testament.

The challenge is to sneak Adam-Eve off the campus and transport them to Peniel. For a magician the solution is obvious: a magic show that will deceive Assur and allow the escape. Ralph sits at the computer and begins to plan the performance. A lavish and playful use of illusions will form the center of the act and be the hook for the CEO’s blindness.

Pushing back the chair from the desk, Ralph stands up and stretches. The earth within has ignited his awareness that the time for the rendezvous is soon. Putting on a jacket, he leaves his suite and walks quickly and quietly through the corridor to the front lobby. He chats pleasantly with the security guard, and, signing out, enters into the clear night illumined by the star-filled sky. His nightly walks have become accepted as a regular routine.

Guided by an inner navigator, Ralph walks along a hidden path through a meadow. The beautiful night brings joy to his heart, and he would like to find a place to lie down and gaze at the sky, absorbing its presence, but he hurries on, knowing that his time is limited. He has “miles to go before” resting his weary head. The high-pitched barking of a coyote breaks the silence momentarily—signaling, perhaps, his approach to the rendezvous. Soon, he arrives at a glen at the base of a mountain. Entering a tree-cloistered area, he moves gracefully toward a darkness in the midst of a cluster of large boulders. He glides along a narrow passageway twisting upward through the giant stones until reaching a rocky overhang that reminds him of an ancient cliff dwelling. He senses the fire, first the smell of burning wood and then the light off to his left. A shadowy figure, sitting beside the fire, observes him intently as he approaches.

“Ralph Garland, I’ve been waiting. Please be seated.” The voice is that of an old woman, an elder whose tone conveys eternal wisdom. The fire light, flickering about her, causes shifting facial patterns that display many images.

Feeling amazement, he constrains himself, recognizing the classic structure underlying the event. He is present to receive secret gnosis. Fear moves from the edge of darkness and sits at his left side. The shadowy form throws a protective shield around him, rendering him fearless.

“Open your ears and free your soul.” She smiles. Her mien vaguely suggests Shasta as she might appear as an elder. She sprinkles an herbal mixture onto the fire. The aromatic vapor induces a pleasant sensation, and Ralph, relaxing, quickly attains inner silence. Softly, slowly, the chanting begins, gradually increasing in tempo and volume: “Protect us from the forces racking our bones, caging our spirit.” The sage glows with an inner fire that she feeds to the seeker. A spiritual tongue springs between them. Ralph’s mind opens, and he hears words spoken directly to his soul.

The words sound strange with their odd intonation and phrasing, yet he understands their meaning clearly. “Esh gives birth to Esha and Eesh. Together they build a nest. Esha gathers chavvah and Eesh collects adawmaw. They mix the two substances until well blended. From the mixture arise numerous children, who populate the world. Woman and man are born from the cosmic fire as feminine and masculine aspects of the fire. Woman brings forth life, and man supplies the physical element earth, which are blended to form humans.”

The chant ends as the elder enters silence. The flames have vanished; only the hot coals remain. The constellation that was at zenith when he left his suite is disappearing below the horizon. The seeker arises and, imbued with lucid awareness, journeys back to his nest. ***

Assur has arrived with Sim, Sala, and Bim for the special magic show that Ralph will perform for them. Because Adam-Eve are an integral part of the act, the CEO has permitted the show to be held in their house. A staging area has been constructed in the living room. A black curtain and navy blue side curtains form the background. Between the side curtains and in front of the main curtain is an opaque synthetic panel eight feet high and five feet wide. Because of the configuration of the room the stage backdrop is located along the front wall, and the seating is in the space between the kitchen-dining area and the living room. Ralph has deliberately chosen and carefully designed the performance area.

The magician peeks around the side curtain at Assur, his retinue, and Adam-Eve. The Commander has an excited mien and babbles to the others in anticipation of the program: he is in a mood to be charmed and deceived.

The lights in the bungalow are turned off, and then a single spot light comes on and spreads its illumination over the stage. Dressed in a tuxedo with tails and a white tie and wearing a top hat and white gloves, the magician steps out from the shadows into the light and strides forth to the center of the stage. Assur is happily surprised. Magicians have not dressed in a tuxedo for many years, and he thinks the regal attire should be restored. Tossing the top hat into the air, the magician reaches up with his right hand, and once the descending hat touches his finger tips, it turns into a black cane with a silver tip. When he taps the cane on the floor, it becomes a small table. Removing a silk handkerchief from his pocket, the mage places it over the table top. As he passes his hands over the handkerchief, it rises. Snatching the silk cloth away, he points to an empty glass sitting on the table. Reaching into the air, he plucks a silver dollar and drops it into the glass. One hand after the other retrieves a dollar, throwing it into the glass until it is overflowing and silver dollars are falling onto the table. Assur applauds lustily at the bountiful production of money, and his retinue eagerly intensify the clapping.

The mage strolls over to the left side of the stage and stops beside a table upon which a small barrel with a single spigot sits. Next to the barrel is a tray with several crystal glasses. “This barrel was once owned by an ancient magus from the planet Chaldea. He placed a spell on it so that it furnishes many different nectars that will delight your palate. Assur, what drink will you have tonight?”

“Why, a glass of that excellent liqueur from Phrygia.”

The mage fills a glass with the nectar and gives it to the Leader, who sips it, enjoying the delectable taste. He then serves Sim, Sala, and Bim with their choices all poured from the small barrel.

“While you are enjoying your drinks, I’ll set up the next effect. Whenever you desire a refill of the same drink or something different, please let me know.”

The magus walks to the center of the stage and picks up the table with the glass filled with silver dollars and carries it over to the right of the stage. From the shadows he retrieves a small platform on wheels and rolls it to the center. On the platform sits a display holder 12 inches wide and 18 inches high.

“In my small way I would like to honor the House of Uruk.” The magus, exhibiting a humble demeanor, bows slightly.

Assur relaxes in his chair, savoring the liqueur, and nods his pleasure and satisfaction.

The mage holds up a blank canvas which is slightly smaller than the display holder. Both sides of the canvas are shown, and then it is inserted into the holder. A lamp behind the display holder is switched on, and the light shines through illuminating the canvas. An image gradually forms on the canvas becoming more and more distinct. A portrait of Assur in his regal attire sitting at his desk has emerged. Confidence and pride radiate from his countenance.

Pointing to the image, the magus states, “Our honored Leader whose fame and beneficence is heralded throughout the universe.”

Slowly, another image takes shape behind Assur’s portrait. The visage of Marduk, smiling with approval, his right hand on Assur’s right shoulder, manifests.

“Our revered Founder is bestowing his blessing and praise on his descendent Assur.”

A stillness fills the room, and Ralph wonders whether he has angered the Commander.

With a choked-up voice Assur speaks, “That was excellent, magician. I was deeply touched.” Then applause breaks forth.

The mage smiles and bows.

“This time, conjurer, I want a glass of Hesperidian wine.” Assur has regained control of his emotions and booms out the order.

After replenishing the drinks from the same barrel, everyone requesting something different—the mage rolls the platform with the Leader’s portrait off stage and returns.

“My next effect will astonish our scientists.” A wand appears at his fingertips. “They lack the secret knowledge that this small instrument represents.” Twirling the wand in his hand, he walks over to the synthetic panel situated between the side curtains and, moving from side to side, taps on the surface with the wand. “See how solid it is.” He pauses and then continues, “This effect will require the penetration of matter. I propose to walk through the panel.” The magician taps again on the panel. Adjusting his coat, he turns and walks into the panel, his body disappearing. At the sound of a trumpet, he pulls back the side curtain on the right side of the stage, and to an ovation he walks toward his audience. Assur claps loudly and then commands to be instructed on the operation of all the effects after the show.

Now the magus asks for the assistance of Adam-Eve. As the couple walk to the stage, the mage goes to the right side and brings forth from the shadows a bench, which he carries to the center. He requests Adam-Eve to recline on the bench and, when they have lain down, waves his hands magically over them. They slowly rise two feet and float in the air. After covering them with a multi-colored cloth, he holds his hands above them, again using the magic sign. They levitate upward another foot. With the background of soft, gently flowing music he lifts the cloth: they have disappeared.

The mage quickly walks to the left side and pulls forward a tall wood cabinet on wheels. Looking at the audience, he asks Sim, the bodyguard, to help him. Sim glances at Assur, who nods approval.

“Please inspect the cabinet for me. This is a matter exchange box.” The magus opens the door of the cabinet, and Sim looks inside and then goes around the cabinet, checking the exterior.

“Will you please step inside the cabinet.” The mage turns toward the CEO. “Adam-Eve have vanished into the unseen world, and now we are ready for the matter exchange. I will transfer human bodies from one reality to another.”

After Sim steps into the cabinet, the mage shuts the door and, grabbing a handle on the side of the box, rotates the box a full circle. “Now let’s see how well the transference worked.” He opens the door and dramatically points his right hand to the doorway. A pause, and silence. The magus turns and looks and is as stunned as his audience. The box is empty.

A rapping is heard, and they glance toward the synthetic panel. The image of Adam-Eve is seen behind the panel. “Ah, they have lost their way. I’ll assist them.” The magician extends his hand into the panel, and something on the other side pulls him through. All images disappear, and bright colored lights flash on and off as a crescendo of musical sound envelops the house.

Assur and the others applaud and then wait for the mage to emerge. After a few minutes a doubt arises in the great Leader’s mind. What has happened to the magus and the others? Then he hears a banging coming from the cabinet. Assur goes over and hears Sim yelling that he wants to get out. With the assistance of Sala and Bim the CEO searches the cabinet and finally finds a secret lock, which is pressed. The hidden compartment is opened, and Sim, frustrated and bewildered, emerges.

The Commander erupts in anger. After bellowing an order to his entourage to search the house, he phones his chief of security to close the campus and explore the grounds.

When a few minutes later Sala notifies him that Adam-Eve and the mage have used the royal limousine to escape, Assur orders a squadron of scouters to search the area surrounding the campus, spreading out in an increasing circle. Scouters are low flying planes that can hover like helicopters and are equipped for search-and-surveillance missions.

After a thirty minute wait, the Leader is finally advised that the limousine has been abandoned and, realizing that they might utilize a spaceship and fly to another planet, orders all spaceports closed and any vessels that have departed to be stopped and boarded. The air fleet of Uruk is known for its fast cruising speed and maneuverability and will have little difficulty catching most ships. The operations administrator communicates that a spaceship has left the planet and is headed for the space-warp portal at the edge of the galactic center. The Commander orders pursuit ships to follow and capture but not destroy it, because Adam-Eve are needed for the energy cycle and the magician will be punished by a cruel death.

On board a small space yacht speeding toward the sundoor at world’s end, Adam-Eve and Ralph are tense and anxious, knowing that they will not be safe until they reach the planet Peniel, where Dilmun defense will shield them from any attacks that Assur’s forces can mount.

Ralph reflects on the events happening after he walked through the synthetic panel and joined Adam-Eve. They left by the only exit, a door in the front wall, which was hidden from Assur’s view by the curtains. Jetson, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform and having secured possession of the CEO’s royal car, was waiting for them with the engine running. They escaped through the Commander’s private gate. Seeing the official limousine, the guard peered cursorily in at the chauffeur and waved them on. They drove several miles along the main highway before turning off onto a narrow, two lane road. After a mile they pulled into a wooded area where Ralph and Adam-Eve transferred to another car. As a ruse Jetson then drove the limousine for several miles on a gravel road out into the countryside and hid it in a canyon while the trio were transported to a private airport where they boarded a space yacht that would convey them to Peniel. After the vessel received clearance, it ascended into space.

An alarm is sounded that sends fear throughout the ship. A squadron of Urukan military cruisers are swiftly approaching them from the rear. The squadron, spreading out to encircle them, is quickly closing in. The Dilmun pilot does not think they can reach the stargate where their vessel will enter the space-time continuum network that will guide it into Peniel’s territory.

Ralph is shocked that Lobsang and his people have not prepared for this eventuality. Why were they assigned a slow yacht used for leisurely vacations? Did the ambassador think that Assur would not catch on so quickly? They had been lulled into believing that they were safe. Such a false sense of security is the greatest illusion, and the mind is so easily deceived by it. Letting anger gain control at this moment, he realizes, is disastrous; instead, he must devise a diversionary tactic if they are to evade the enemy cruisers and cruel death.

Comprehending that the enemy’s psyche centers only on the male side and thus is unbalanced, Ralph decides to create his grandest illusion ever by conjuring the Queen of the Cosmic Crown, the Celestial Woman. Because he has never performed this effect before, the risk is extremely dangerous, yet he must accept the peril and dare.

Fear manifests at his left side and envelops him with a protective shield. Ralph’s mind is filled with gnosis: Death is not a terrifying monster but a portal, a transformation to another dimension of life. Fear is the weakness of the Urukan soldiers pursuing them. Taking his wand from his coat pocket, he focuses on the tip of his nose and images the garden of paradise. At the center of the garden stands the goddess in precise detail. Thrusting the wand out at arm’s length and focusing on its tip, he visualizes the goddess there. Chanting “I-sis, I-sis” and moving the wand in a spiral, he projects the image out into space.

As a wind whispers in his soul, he hears her ask, “Who goes there?”

Immediately, without thinking, he answers, “It is you.”

A giant, blazing ball of light appears in front of the Dilmun ship and morphs into a holographic image of the Celestial Woman. Immense and stalwart, with her legs spread apart, the Queen of Heaven welcomes those who cherish her. Lightning flashes from her head, and great swells of energy swirl outward from her body. The mage swoons as in a death-like faint and collapses onto the floor of the spaceship.

With expert finesse the Dilmun pilot navigates the yacht between the Queen’s legs and on toward the stargate. The awesome figure terrorizes the Urukan space fleet so much that the Commander orders his ships to retreat.

The small yacht sails safely through the sundoor at world’s end and onto Peniel where the celestial woman and the celestial man stand together, forming a sacred unity.

After departing the space vessel, Adam-Eve are escorted to their habitat where they will be relieved of the dense body and their spiritual essences rejuvenated. Ralph is housed at a comfortable inn until the spacecraft going to Earth is ready to leave. The day before his departure however, Ralph receives an invitation from Adam-Eve to visit them.

Excitement bubbles forth when he reaches their abode and is guided through a corridor out into a garden more natural than human crafting. Hearing sounds of rushing waster, he walks along a stone path to the source. He enters a glen and ten feet in front of him is a waterfall, the water flowing joyously into a pool from which emerges a creek that meanders through the glen. A double rainbow arches over the pool. Relaxing, he absorbs the pleasant aura of the setting and sits down on a wood bench next to the pool. He feels a presence and looking about sees nothing.

Suddenly a pair of voices speak to him. “Welcome, Ralph, to our home.”

He peers toward the source of the voices, and gradually Adam-Eve manifest. Levitating several feet above the ground, Adam-Eve slowly descend to the earth to accept his greeting. Arising, Ralph expresses his pleasure at being there—a veritable paradise.

“We asked you to visit us before you leave because we want to give you a gift for your service.”

Ralph brightens. “I’m very happy I was able to assist you, and knowing that the universe will maintain its existence—that’s the best reward I could receive.”

Smiling magnanimously, Adam-Eve reply, “Because of our gratitude we will increase the depth of your gnosis. Come, let us walk together through the garden and we will speak.”

“I’m delighted.” Ralph walks beside them.

They meander through the glen into a copse of trees and then out into a meadow always following the creek. Adam-Eve impress upon Ralph that the gnosis he is receiving must be shared with others of a similar mindset. The words that Adam-Eve speak are of the wind, and his soul opens and is enlightened.

When the visit is over, he is so filled with tantalizing thoughts and exuberant emotions that his journey home to Earth seems completed before he has hardly left Peniel. Now back in Ingleside Terraces at the Garland residence, he sits in his rocking chair and reads over the journal entry he has written, assaying the gnosis gained from Adam-Eve. ***

The scene on the TV monitor faded. Ralph sat silently in the rocking chair with Harold seated next to him. Breaking the stillness, Harold asked, “Well, weren’t those marvelous adventures?”

Absorbed in thought, Ralph glided in the chair, profoundly touched. Too many ideas were cruising through his mind, and he would require time to inspect their meaning. “They were, but I don’t know what else to say, other than the show was deeply moving.”

Harold stood and, laying his hand on Ralph’s shoulder, commented, “The DVD is yours. Watch it as often you as wish. Consider it as an allegorical portrayal of an alchemical quest. I’ll see you soon.”

As his mentor walked to the studio’s door, Ralph called out, “Thanks for the mystical drama. I’ll meditate on its meaning.”

With an astute gleam in his eyes, Harold answered, “Excellent,” and then left.

Hermes Beckons Chapters Snatching a Piece of Eternity from the Dragon The Stone Grows in the Darkness of the Earth