Hermes Beckons: The Stone Grows in the Darkness of the Earth
Chapter 24
© 2006 John Caris

The magician was busy practicing with an egg handling, one which he would use in the upcoming show, while his mind was wandering. He was still troubled by the strange adventures he had viewed on the DVD Harold had given him. Later he had watched the program several more times; each performance had provided further insights about magic and himself.

The ideas that Adam-Eve had avowed were not only intriguing but profound and had touched deeply his philosophic bent. He had been awed by the explanation of their life-energy cycling process. The basic principle entails primary biological activities. Meiosis is the underlying event, and it originates in the DNA repair process. The second part of their cycle involves fusion. Meiosis and fertilization form the creative act in two-parent reproduction. Many living species, of course, utilize only one parent, yet even here meiosis is necessary.

They went on to describe the way the spirit, soul, and physical vessel are fused after the spark of life has been implanted in the body. Some microbes have evolved a membrane-bounded nucleus. Like the cell with its outer membrane, the nucleus containing the DNA has its own wall. These microbes are named eukaryotes. Plants, animals, and fungi have evolved from them. For sexually reproducing organisms, the physical outer body, the cell, after a short life-span, dies; but the DNA in the nucleus lives on—a kind of immortality.

The analogy implied by the process clarified his understanding. The soul is the nucleus, the body the cell, and the spirit the life-force. The soul requires its own vessel when the body dies, and when the astral body is developed, the spirit’s invigoration of the soul will be preserved. On the physical level, when the cell dies, the nucleus membrane breaks up and the cell wall bursts. If the soul lacks a protective covering that does not disintegrate when the body dies, it is released into the world. Would it then be absorbed into another body, that is, a fetus, he wondered? The image glistened, inciting a profound aha to blossom.

He mulled over what they had said about the principle of plenitude governing the universe’s evolution. The contemporary concept of progress is an ethnocentric fantasy. Evolutionary plenitude assumes a fruition of the universe’s potential, that is, a fulfillment of the universe’s ability to create brilliant diversity through its sacred intelligence. Observing the universe from the viewpoint of eternity, we can witness all time and space—both past, present, and future—which can be watched simultaneously, all spread out (space) for instant viewing (time). At this still point of the moving universe we observe that certain species have their time, their fifteen cosmic nanoseconds. We frequently refer to the dinosaurs’ moment, yet humans are now having their moment. Another species will have its moment next, and so forth. The contemporary concept of progress puts blinders on our understanding and forces us to think in a straight line.

What they had proposed about the eternal role of humans in the universe was astute and crucial for human destiny. Humans will always be present on the cosmic stage, even though not the dominant species. For one moment humans will be ascendant on earth, and then they will withdrew into the background to perform their galactic duties by becoming gardeners and gamekeepers, who will assist the development of other species to gain their moment in the center ring. Their present dabbling into the secrets of life through genetic engineering is the adolescent stage of the sorcerer’s apprentice who must soon set aside such puerile endeavors and accept adult responsibility.

To perform their future tasks with excellence, humans will need to develop their mind so that they can understand both sides simultaneously, theirs and the others. For so long humans have been mired in the either-or duality: we and them. An advanced form of consciousness, a stereo-consciousness, must evolve if humans are to fulfill their purpose.

The concepts that Adam-Eve had professed both encouraged him and made him wonder if humans would accomplish this goal. His own emotional duality gave him pause about the success for the human quest, but he was now more balanced than before and perceived clearly his purpose. The Alchemical Light Show was his immediate focus, and if its aim were achieved, he would know that his path was spiritually healing.

The door chimes pealed, interrupting his reverie. Putting the egg on the utility table, he went to the front door. Opening it, he discovered Harold grinning at him. “Cheers, fellow magus,” Harold chortled as he entered the house.

After they emerged into the studio, Harold, surveying the many props spread about, inquired, “The show’s in a week. How are you doing?” He strode over to the rocking chair and sat down.

Ralph beamed. “Things are falling into place. We’ll be ready. Will you?” Ralph had asked Harold to act as one of the characters in the magical drama, an assistant to Rafé, and he had agreed.

“Definitely. When is the full dress rehearsal?”

“Tomorrow. Gordon has put the finishing touches on the script, but he’ll only stop refining it when the show begins. Merle has completed painting the scenery, and Dale has put the music on a CD. Rafé, Shasta, and I have been busy running through the choreography and the lines and practicing with the apparatus. We’ve been using Dale’s music for the past week. Nola Miller, the graduate student from SF State whom we hired to direct our mystic drama, has been working with us for several weeks. She’s been such a great help. The performance will be shaped so that the spectators can witness the alchemical transformation and perhaps be inspired to seek their own philosopher’s stone.”

Harold studied his friend and then, dissolving the enveloping silence, asked, “Have you been busy manufacturing endorphins?”

“Wha . . . what do you mean?” Ralph was startled by Harold’s question.

“The sparkle in your eyes is so much brighter than I’ve ever seen it. So I wondered if you’ve decided to use your body’s chemistry to alter your view of the world. You know, actually perform a little personal alchemy.”

Ralph chuckled, amused at the wonder of the inner truth that had manifested in his soul. “Yes, I have, but not consciously; that is, I don’t have a schedule or routine that I employ.”

“‘The stone grows in the darkness of the earth,’ isn’t that what the adepts declare?”

Nodding in affirmation, Ralph meandered about the studio, inspecting the apparatus for the show. Sighing deeply, he stopped and scrutinized his mentor. Choosing his words carefully and with some apprehension, he said, “I’ve an intense desire which has been with me since I was a child. I want to perform real magic. Will you teach me?”

Harold’s gray eyes pierced Ralph, examining his soul. “Don’t you do ‘real’ magic?”

“Of course not. My magic isn’t real.”

“But I see you perform—make things appear and disappear.”

“That’s only stage magic.”

“So what do you mean by ‘real’?”

“That’s obvious. Actually do magic. Actually make something disappear or appear.” Ralph gestured to the apparatus near him. “Real magic doesn’t need props like that.”

Harold reached into the air and extracted a silver dollar. “Real magic?” he retorted in an amused voice. Then the dollar vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

“Yes.”

“But I’ve seen you do the same thing.”

Ralph brightened, no longer ashamed of talking about his fears and absurd experiences. “Remember the first time we met here in my studio? I was either crazy or you were a true mage.”

Harold laughed, his mirth spreading out and touching Ralph, who reciprocated the light-heartedness. “Indeed. Can we explain that appearance and vanishing act by the methods stage magicians and illusionists employ?”

“If we had first met at an Assembly 2 gathering or at Alice’s shop, my assumptions would be different. How would I know that you are of the spirit realm and not another sleight-of-hand artist?”

“Excellent. You made the correct choice and refused to be ensnared in the deception of madness.”

“You can actually take that coin from emptiness while I can only create the illusion.”

“Aha. And have you discovered my method—understood the secret of my performances? Can you state my technique?”

Now Ralph had the aha. “The objects are in the unmanifested realm. You retrieve them from there and then put them back.”

“Indeed. Nothing begets nothing. Continue.” The teacher smiled encouragement to his student.

“You know how to move between the two worlds: that’s your secret.”

“Very good. It’s a small matter of knowing where the portal is and that gnosis is gained from experience.”

“It’s a question of visibility, of perception—the six Buddhist senses.” Ralph had caught the quickening flow of ideas and was energized by its inspiration.

“And?”

“Human minds are normally dull, but yours isn’t. You perceive both worlds accurately. But what about other effects like levitation and transformations?”

“By utilizing the power emanating from the spiritual reality. It’s present in this world of ‘appearances,’ as you call it.”

“This power is the basis for all your effects?”

“Yes.”

“When you do a cut and restore effect, you don’t put the cut string into the unmanifested and draw forth another string?”

“No, I mend the string—fusing the two pieces together.”

“That’s real magic.” A light of recognition shone from Ralph’s eyes.

“Without quibbling about words, the fusing is a natural act following the physical laws of the universe.”

“Please accept me as your student and teach me.”

“Why do you want the power?” Harold exhibited a singular prescience.

“Why? Because I want to do things.” Ralph felt forced to reveal the truth, as much as he could.

“What would you do? How would you use the power?” Harold’s voice tugged at Ralph’s psyche.

“I would . . . oh-oh. I see the traps: many false doors opening to selfish desires. Shades of Psyche’s curiosity and Gyges’ ring.” He winced at the dawning insight.

“Indeed. The ring of invisibility plus the mindset of the sorcerer’s apprentice.”

“How do I prevent myself from falling into the trap?”

“The realms that you talk about are actually one, the spiritual realm is hidden behind the façade of dark matter, which cannot be penetrated by ordinary consciousness.”

“I want to make contact, communicate with that reality. What should I do? How can I prepare myself?” Ralph paused, aware of a pleading tone in his voice.

“Cleanse your senses. Continue to change your attitude as you’ve been doing. You will begin to perceive parts of reality you’ve never experienced before.”

“Strange things have been happening to me. Have I started the process?” Ralph hid his anxiety behind a mask of adventure.

“Indeed. Your awareness is encompassing more and more of the universe, but you need to gain an understanding of the new experiences. Your philosophical predilection requires a conceptual foundation; otherwise, you’ll flounder and sink into an abyss of turbulent confusion.”

“I need to think on this question.”

“Yes, we’ll discuss it later after you’ve given it serious consideration. Make sure you understand what you’re asking for.”

“I’ll focus totally on my performance in next week’s Alchemical Light Show.”

“Indeed. Can you now give me a succinct description of my method?”

Ralph moved into his silent place and emptied his mind. A cluster of ideas formed, and he perceived their structure. An aha arose from his lips. “Yes. We perceive the emptiness even when it is not. Perception of emptiness is the misdirection: perception of darkness is the misdirection! Light-in-the-darkness. If I close my eyes,” and he did, “I should feel the objects that are invisible! But I didn’t, so I haven’t reached that stage of awareness yet.”

“Excellent. Anymore?”

“With my eyes closed, I’m less misdirected because I must rely on other senses and not be dominated by sight.” He opened his eyes, staring at this mentor in expectation.

Smiling at his student, Harold stood up and walked toward him. He put his right hand into his pocket and pulled it out closed. “You discovered the secret of my method and correctly described it. Here’s the gift I promised.” Harold opened his hand, displaying a green stone bear.

“My Zuni bear.” A sigh of relief came from Ralph. He took the sculpture and caressed it.

“I’ve other affairs to attend to and you should get back to rehearsing.” Harold gazed at his apprentice with appreciation. “Remember how chemical philosophers often issue a dare to their disciples? I challenge you to step beyond your daily reality and explore the other realm.” Patting Ralph on the back, the mage left.

Ralph walked over to the philosophy section and retrieved Plato’s Republic. Opening to 359d, he refreshed his memory of the story. Socrates and Glaucon are discussing the issue of justice and injustice. Glaucon argues that humans act justly only from necessity to prevent punishment and gain rewards. To support his position he tells the story of Gyges’ ancestor who had found a magical ring that would make him invisible. He had used that ring to slay the king and gain control of the kingdom.

Ralph paused, thinking, and then continued reading. His amazement increased as he learned the way Gyges’ ancestor found the ring. The earth opened where he was pasturing his flock, and he descended to explore the chasm. Among many marvels he discovered “a hollow bronze horse with little doors” and within was a corpse wearing a gold ring on its finger. The images and their embedded meaning stirred Ralph’s imagination. Critical filters were dissolved. A body within a container. A gold ring that makes one invisible. Treasures within the earth. The ring is a portal between the two realms. The bronze horse represents the physical body, and the corpse, the astral vessel. The ring’s power energizes the soul so that it can enter the spiritual realm. Image of a centaur—horse and human as one entity. Within the horse is a little man “of more than mortal stature,” suggesting the quality of an immortal.

The multiple layers of meaning required further thought. Hermes was speaking to him. Gyges’ ancestor used that power for worldly advantage instead of applying it to his spiritual advancement. How many of us would do the same? Glaucon’s example illustrates a constant dilemma: power can be used for good or evil. Each of us must make a personal choice. He decided that he would pursue his hermetic goal with vigor and perseverance. ***

Ralph listened to Shasta’s soft, slow breathing. Satisfied that she was asleep, he quietly got out of bed. Lucy looked up at him and then, after yawning, laid her head back down on the blanket. Karma’s ears were upright, attuned to the sounds around her. Ralph slipped his robe and slippers on and walked out of the bedroom and descended to his studio on the first floor. He had left clothes there for this night’s adventure, which he had planned for four days. The dare Harold had given him had burrowed deep within and had initiated a desire to explore the world of the night.

Quickly, he dressed into his shadow clothes: black turtleneck shirt, pants, socks, shoes, navy blue jacket, and black beret. He moved silently to the front door. Unlatching it, he stepped onto the front porch and gently shut the door. He peered into the darkness. Only two days before new moon and with the overcast sky natural light was unavailable for his journey. The wind rustled tree branches, and an eerie feeling brushed against him. He focused his mind and, entering a stealth mode, strode off into the unknown. He had decided to go toward Ocean Avenue by taking a narrow alley that was seldom traveled.

Coming to the alley, he searched the shadows, and, discerning nothing strange nor fearful, proceeded along the asphalt path. His senses alert, he walked slowly, observing his surroundings. Ahead, he noticed a bend in the path, one that he did not remember, although he had not used the alley for more than a year. As he rounded the bend, he stopped, surprised by a light emanating from a doorway. Then he saw the sign attached to the wall beside the door: “Unicorn Inn, open midnight to dawn.” Smiling, a little nervous, he thought to himself, “I’ve taken the dare and am ready to enter another realm.”

Opening the door, he steps into a spacious room, brightly lit and noisy. A bar with customers sitting on stools beside it is set on one side of the inn. Many tables with occupants seated at them are scattered about. He notices what appears to be a stage. The patrons fascinate him. They seem mysterious as if living in the arcane side of the world. Some are obviously peddlers, who have wares on display. Most, though, are enjoying the camaraderie and their drinks. Stay in stealth mode, he reminds himself as he walks unobtrusively toward an empty stool at the bar. Situating himself there, he glances at the other occupants. The bartender, whose sharp, angular features project an inquisitiveness, comes over and wipes the place in front of Ralph.

Without hesitation Ralph asks for a pint of ale. He does not wish to answer any questions until he gains his bearings. As he sips his drink, Ralph hears a voice next to him say, “Hey, mate, this your first visit?”

Ralph turns and confronts a man with a scraggly beard and an earring in his left earlobe whose piercing gaze unveils the truth. He cannot refrain from acknowledging his identity any longer. “Hi. Yes, it is.”

“I’m Morgan,” his acquaintance replies.

“I’m Ralph Garland. I live in the area, but I’ve never heard about the Unicorn Inn.”

“It’s been here for ages. Many of us in the magical arts frequent these premises. Glad you found it.”

Ralph realizes that he has entered an enchanted realm and will try to learn as much as possible. As he observes the patrons, he is amazed by their wondrous styles of clothing. Colors and patterns galore—the tailoring ranges from body-forming to loose and flowing. He realizes now that his stealth outfit stands out in its starkness. Amusement besets him as he gleans that Morgan immediately recognized him as an outsider. With the blazing overhead lights he could never find a shadow to hide in.

He spies a man wearing a red T-shirt with “MAGIC IS ALIVE” printed on it, probably the one he had noticed outside The Empty Hand. Pointing him out to Morgan, he inquires, “Who is that gent over there with the red T-shirt?”

“Why, that’s Rufus. He’s world famous for his spirit emanation routine.”

“What kind of effect is that?”

“He can cause spirits to manifest whenever he wishes. An amazing act.”

“That woman near the stage wearing a purple robe with a pentagram on the back, I’ve seen her before too. Who is she?”

“That lady is Beryl. Enchanted designs she can draw. Such wonderful images and packed with power—you can’t imagine. Anyone else you’re acquainted with?”

“They’re the only ones I’ve come across in my daily activities.” Startled, Ralph watches as someone who resembles Alexander Herrmann walks among the crowded tables and, after pausing to whisper to someone at a door to the left of the stage, enters it.

“Was that Alexander Herrmann who went into that room next to the stage?” he inquires of Morgan.

“By jolly, that was. And here comes stately Adelaide now.”

Astonished, Ralph watches as the first lady of magic also strolls through the door. “What’re they going into there for?” he asks his new friend.

“That’s the sacred hall where magi gather in private for extraordinary presentations and the sharing of innovations.”

Ralph starts to stand, but Morgan grabs his arm. “Hang on there, if you’re thinking about joining them. The activities are for the select, an invitation only affair.”

He scrutinizes Morgan for a hidden meaning. “How do I obtain such an invitation?” he asks.

“You must demonstrate an adroitness and talent with the magical arts. Only authentic masters can go into the hallowed hall.”

A wry smile crosses his face before Ralph inquires, “Are you one of the privileged, Morgan?”

“Aye mate, I am. Many, many years ago I was initiated into the sacred mysteries. You recognized the Herrmanns, who are recent initiates. Like many conjurers of your profession, they perfected their gifts after they had left their fleshy bonds and joined the immortals.”

Ralph contemplates his friend’s information while sipping his ale. Feeling an intense curiosity and restraining an unsettling impatience, he asks, “Can one attain that level without dying? Could I in my present body become an initiate?”

“Well, mate, to be honest you’d need to display an ability that most take years to achieve. But if you’re willing to try now, all you got to do is jump onto that there stage and perform like you’ve never done before. Show us your magic, and if the audience approves, then you’ll be received into the inner chamber.”

His curiosity aroused, Ralph watches for others to enter the sacred chamber. A man, stylishly dressed, approaches its entrance. Ralph observes him with attentiveness. With a bright twinkle in his eyes and a smile enhanced by a well-groomed goatee and moustache, the man waves at the occupants of several tables near the door. Recognition dawns on Ralph: the man is Dante, a world famous magician of the early twentieth century.

Hearing a voice louder than the background hum of the inn, Ralph glances over to the stage where the master of ceremonies is announcing the next act. “Ladies and Gents, here’s Osgo the card master.”

Osgo approaches the front of the stage holding up a deck of cards. “Would someone assist me?” he asks.

A tall, lanky fellow, whose bare head is covered with weird tattoos, stands up and strides to the stage where Osgo greets him.

“What is your name?” the performer inquires.

“Ethelbert.”

“Ethelbert, I’d like you to select a card.” The card master fans the cards with the backs up. Ethelbert inspects the deck before choosing one.

“Now, please sign the card and show it to the audience.” Osgo turns his back so that he cannot see the card. After a short interval the magician inquires, “Have you signed the card?”

“Yes.”

“Please place the card back in the deck.” Osgo holds out the deck behind his back and fans it. After Ethelbert has inserted the card into the deck, Osgo squares it and turns to face the audience. Walking over to a small table in the center of the stage, he picks up an empty glass and puts the deck into it.

“Ethelbert, please concentrate on your card.”

Slowly a card rises from the deck. The magician removes the card and shows it to Ethelbert. “Is this your card?”

“No, it’s not,” he replies.

“Yet it has your signature on it.” The card master is troubled that the wrong card has appeared.

“That’s true, but it’s not the card I selected.” He turns to the audience. “Is that the card, mates?”

A loud chorus of “no’s” and “nays” sound forth.

Ethelbert faces Osgo and laughs.

Perplexed, Osgo says, “Strange. Well, I’ll try again.”

He puts the card back into the glass. After a few moments another card, also signed, rises from the deck. The performer takes it and looks questioningly at Ethelbert, who shakes his head while the crowd hoots and hollers denial.

Astounded, the magician stares at the glass and inserts the card into the deck. Then without warning cards rise from the glass one by one and fall to the floor until the glass is empty. Fifty-two cards, all signed, lie scattered about. After a momentary pause the cards swirl up and gather into a deck, which squares itself and settles back into the glass.

“Hey, that’s fantastic,” yells Ethelbert. “There’s my card.” The card in front of the deck facing the audience is a three of diamonds.

A roar of cheers bursts from the delighted spectators. Osgo, dumfounded yet elated, bows and hurries from the stage before more unexpected happenings occur.

The master of ceremonies returns and announces, “Our next performer is Wyven, the master of the four elements.

Walking to the center of the stage, Wyven declares, “Fire, water, air, and earth are under my control. I will demonstrate.” Extending his right hand, he directs its forefinger upward. A flame blasts from the finger. Moving his right hand, Wyven causes the flame to suggest writing.

A petite lady, sitting at a table near Ralph, shouts, “That’s not magic.” Jumping up from her chair, she gestures toward the master of the four elements. Flames appear around his ankles and climb up his trouser legs.

Wyven screams, “Help! Help!” and bounces up and down, frantically slapping his pants with his hands. Two large pitchers of ale manifest and whirl around his legs, splashing their contents onto the flames, dousing them as the master of the four elements scurries off the stage. Raucous laughter and bellowing hoots saturate the inn.

Morgan roars, his huge paunch quaking with mirth, and whacks the bar. “It’s jolly fun that Wanda’s given us.”

As merriment bubbles among the habitués, Ralph discreetly observes Wanda as she sits down again. A ruddy glow, enhanced by her auburn hair, emanates from her as she acknowledges admiration from nearby friends. Her movements and energy remind him of Alice.

Morgan slurps some ale before remarking, “See what happens to ‘drugstore magicians.’ They’re deceived by their own fantasies. Magic, indeed.”

Ralph moves inward and considers the possibility of being roasted if the audience dislikes his routine. Morgan nods knowingly and remarks, “Try if you like. They won’t do anything serious. It’s all a big joke to them.”

Ralph searches his pockets for a routine to perform, never leaving home without something, and retrieves a wood bottle about four inches high with a narrow neck and a bulbous bottom. He stares at it in amazement. Here is one of his earliest props, the imp bottle. Memories about it emerge. This was the effect that he had explained to his brother Ken as a reward for being quiet during the performance of Menotti’s opera. Ken had always marveled at the antics of the bottle, its impish ways proving its magical power, but after his brother had been shown the secret, he seemed dismayed and much less interested in his older brother’s sleights. Although Ralph had taught Ken the method of several more effects and encouraged him to practice the routines, he never developed the same enthusiasm for magic Ralph had.

Turning to Morgan, Ralph says, “I’ve a routine to perform. Perhaps I can get an invitation to the sacred hall.”

“Good luck, then,” Morgan answers.

On his way to the stage, Ralph runs through his mind the possible routines he might perform. It should be tailored to fit the crowd here at Unicorn Inn. When he reaches the stage, he tells the master of ceremonies that he will perform.

“My friends and fellow magi, our next artist is Ralph Garland, the famous wizard of Ocean Avenue,” the master of ceremonies announces.

After a few cheers and whistles resonate within the inn, Ralph steps to the small table in the center of the stage. Holding up the imp bottle, he confesses, “This bottle was given to me by the eminent mage Alfred of the Marvels, who trapped a genie inside. The genie is very willful and mischievous, and only with great difficulty have I been able to train it to obey my commands.”

Setting the bottle on the table, he states, “The genie will not obey unless the command is prefaced with ‘azbim.’ I’ll show you.” Ralph pushes the top of the bottle toward the table surface, and when it is lying horizontally, he utters a command and releases the bottle. It quickly stands upright. He repeats the procedure twice more.

“Notice that the genie always forces the bottle to return to its upright position. When I issue the proper command, the genie will allow the bottle to remain horizontal. “Azbim, bottle lie on the table,” Ralph announces as he pushes the bottle over. Releasing the reclining bottle, he asserts, “Behold, the bottle is lying down.”

He bows to a scattering of applause. “That routine required four months of diligent effort to teach the genie. This next routine required even more exertion, but the outcome was well worthwhile.”

Ralph sets the bottle upright on the table. He holds both hands over the bottle. “Azbim, bottle rise up.”

The bottle begins ascending toward Ralph’s hands. Slowly, it rises into the space between. He turns his hands over, palms up, and the bottle rises above them before floating over to his right hand and leisurely descending onto its palm.

“Azbim, bottle dance,” Ralph commands. The bottle bounces around on his palm and stops. Ralph smiles at the audience and announces, “The genie has given us an excellent performance. Let’s show our appreciation.” Ralph clasps the bottle and holds it up to the audience.

Polite applause fills the inn, and as it quiets, Rufus shouts, “Genie, take your bow!”

“Let’s see the genie,” Beryl yells.

Ralph rejoins, “The genie is very shy and will not come out of the bottle when strangers are present.”

“We’re not strangers. We’re friends,” Rufus cries out.

“Yes, yes, we’re friends,” the enthusiasts begin chanting.

Rufus gestures at the bottle. “Look. There’s the genie now.”

Startled, Ralph gawks at the bottle. An impish face appears above the bottle’s mouth. Slowly, shoulders and arms emerge and finally the whole torso manifests itself.

In a bass voice the genie exclaims, “Greetings, my friends. I’m Clyde and the performance will continue with my second act.”

Abruptly, the bottle jumps out of Ralph’s hand and cruises away from him. “Ho, ho, my fellow mates, join me in this celebration,” Clyde boasts.

Clyde pushes himself completely out of the bottle and stands on its lip. Pushing down on the bottle’s neck, he shoves the vessel into a horizontal position. Laughing, Clyde snaps his fingers, and the bottle changes into a sailing yacht two feet long. Clyde sings a sea chantey while the ship sails around the inn and, passing the bar, he grabs a pint of ale and toasts it high. “Here’s to you, hearty mates,” he croons and then empties the glass in one swallow.

Ralph stands on the stage transfixed, watching the mischievous genie glide around the room, pausing here and there to converse with habitués.

Walking over to Ralph, Morgan asks, “Can’t you command your genie to return?”

Ralph is nonplussed. “This never happened before, but I can try. Azbim, bottle, return to me.”

The bottle pauses in mid flight, and Clyde glares at Ralph. “I’m having fun, Ralph. You don’t let me do this very often.” With a mocking salute, Clyde sails the yacht about the inn. His sea chantey is filled with rough humor, all directed toward Ralph.

Ralph in a very stern voice commands, “Azbim, bottle, return to me now.”

Clyde’s features become sullen as he disappears into the vessel, which changes back into a bottle.

Louder and peremptory, Ralph repeats the command. The bottle reverses its direction and floats over to him and descends onto his palm. He grasps the bottle tightly and sticks it into his pocket.

As the inn erupts into cheers, Morgan’s voice roars forth, “Ralph has showed fundamental skill and has remarkable potential which requires careful and diligent growth. What say you mates!”

Boisterous hurrahs and yells of right-on resound within the inn.

Morgan raises his hand for silence. Smiling at Ralph, he says, “You no longer need to be a drugstore magician, Ralph. Nourish your talent and power, and soon you’ll receive an invitation to the sacred hall.”

His face flushes as he shakes Morgan’s hand. “I’ll work on it and I’ll be back.”

Deeply pleased with his endeavor, Ralph walks through the crowded inn, stopping here and there for well-wishers. When he reaches the entrance, he turns toward his fellow adepts and gives them the thumbs-up gesture. Then he leaves, emerging into the night. ***

Ralph glided in his rocking chair, ruminating on the mystic adventure that he had last night. He had slept in late, and when he had arrived in the kitchen for coffee and a breakfast snack, Shasta was washing her dishes. She had smiled at him and only inquired if he had a pleasant dreamtime. He agreed that he had—that would be the best way to describe the night’s affair in the shadow world, and he would do so if he ever discussed it with her. He now needed to inspect the event from every possible angle, searching for hidden layers of meaning, while the experience was still vivid because in the afternoon he would be involved in a dress rehearsal. In two days the opening performance of the Alchemical Light Show would occur, and his mind must be focused on it.

Hermes Beckons Chapters Knowing the Emptiness Is Not Empty She Who Is Hidden Is Now Revealed